BHSU-RC student and mother of two pursues a degree alongside her children

Author: BHSU Communications/Thursday, May 3, 2018/Categories: Students, College of Business and Natural Sciences, Community, Faculty, 2018

Julie Penney, business administration and management major at Black Hills State University-Rapid City, has wanted to get her business degree since the day she graduated high school in 1988. After sending both of her children to college to achieve their degrees, she decided it was her turn. Now, Julie is on track to earn her diploma from BHSU-RC in May 2019.

“Brianna went to college first, and then James set off two years later,” Julie’s voice beamed as she spoke of her daughter and son. “When James had been in college for a year, we moved to Rapid City, and I decided that it was time for me to get my degree.”

Julie knew she wanted to stay in the workforce, so she looked for a university that would adapt to her schedule. “BHSU-RC had classes at night and online, which fit my work schedule. I liked that mixture, too, because I didn’t want to have only online classes,” Julie explained. “I like taking in-person classes, because I feel more connected. Since that wasn’t always possible with my schedule, I had the opportunity to take other classes online.”

Enrolling in 2015, Julie was tackling college courses at the same time as her son and daughter, “My daughter graduated a couple of years ago, my son will graduate this spring, and I will graduate next spring!”

Reflecting on the ability to experience college alongside her children, Julie says, “It was actually great, because they could help me figure out how college works! My daughter showed me how to order my books online. After starting college, I had a different perspective when my kids would tell me about their experiences—it brought us all closer.”

Julie also found guidance from the professors at BHSU-RC.

“During my first semester, Dr. Rachelle Greer helped me greatly in her speech class. I really improved my ability to speak in front of others. Professor Jeffrey Wehrung invited me to join the student advisory board, and I’ve really enjoyed being able to give a student’s perspective on what can be improved at BHSU-RC,” Julie shared.

All these resources have been instrumental as Julie strides toward a life-long goal: “I’ve always seen myself getting a business degree—it’s something I’ve always gravitated toward.”

Julie grew up in Alliance, Neb. When senior year of high school arrived, she was not focused on college applications; rather, she was trying to put a roof over her head.

“I lived in my own apartment four months before even graduating high school—college was literally just a dream,” Julie remembers.

Julie met her husband in Alliance, and they started their family. They moved frequently for her husband’s job as an airport manager. Julie kept busy, working jobs wherever they landed. Always drawn to places of education, she held multiple positions at her children’s schools. She became a paraprofessional, food service worker, lunchroom monitor, campus secretary, and payroll specialist as they traveled from Nebraska to Texas, Arkansas, and eventually South Dakota.

Now, Julie thinks she’ll aim for a position in human resources after graduation.

“Any position that I get to facilitate people connecting with each other, I’ll be happy. That’s what draws me to human resources—you get to connect others and meet all the new people. It’s a very human, friendly aspect of business.”

About BHSU-Rapid City
With full-degree programs, including elementary education, business administration, human services, graphic communication, history, and social sciences at BHSU-RC, Rapid City residents have access to a comprehensive education, without the need to go online or pull up roots.

BHSU offers a master’s degree in business administration and applied management (MBA) and several bachelor’s degrees that can be completed at BHSU-Rapid City. The bachelor’s degrees include: business administration, corporate communications, elementary education, general studies, history, history education, human services, mass communication, political science, psychology, social science teaching, and sociology. In addition, BHSU-RC offers several associate degrees and certificates that can be completed without leaving Rapid City.

BHSU-RC is located at 4300 Cheyenne Blvd. on the east side of Rapid City with easy access from I-90. The University is committed to serving veterans, has a large network of alumni living in the region, and has a business program in the top five percent of business schools worldwide. In spring 2018, BHSU-RC debuted a new block schedule providing students a flexible way to take classes.

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