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First two graduates complete Bachelor of Professional Studies program

November 14, 2013

Wendy Chesnut '13 discusses how earning her Bachelor of Professional Studies degree online through the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire has changed her life.


EAU CLAIRE — Years after leaving their studies at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire without a diploma in hand, two students have now received their bachelor's degrees through the online Bachelor of Professional Studies degree completion program: the first ever to do so.

Jim Budde
Wendy Chesnut
Jim Budde and Wendy Chesnut completed their degrees in organizational leadership and communication in the summer of 2013. Both graduates had previously attended UW-Eau Claire but were forced to hold off on their education for personal reasons.

Budde left UW-Eau Claire in 2007 to accept employment with the U.S. Postal Service. When the announcement of the BPS program came three years later, he was immediately interested.

"At the time I was worried about my employment with the post office and my first child had just been born, so continuing my education seemed like a good option," Budde said. "I decided to pursue the degree, as I knew I liked Eau Claire and I wanted my degree to come from UW-Eau Claire."

Similarly, Chesnut was juggling the responsibilities of being a working mother when she decided to pursue the two-year, fully online program.

"I can't shortchange my family as their needs come first," she said. "Now, with three kids and a full-time job, attending classes on campus simply wouldn't work for me. I needed a program like the BPS that would allow me to work on my studies around my family and work schedule."

Phil Huelsbeck, program manager for adult degrees and certificates, said these circumstances are typical for students pursuing a BPS.

"Students in the program juggle a myriad of responsibilities (family, work, service, etc.) while pursuing their studies," Huelsbeck said. "Keeping on the path to graduation is no simple task given these important responsibilities."

Huelsbeck also said that Budde and Chesnut are models for future continuing students.

"Our first graduates serve as an excellent example to other busy adults that completing their degree so that they can grow and move ahead professionally is possible and worth the considerable effort involved," he said.

Chesnut recently accepted a new position at OakLeaf Surgical Hospital in Eau Claire as an information systems clinical coordinator. She said she has seen elements of what she learned in class in her daily work.

Budde also said he has applied what he learned in his classes to his occupation.

"For example, my accounting class comes in handy while working as my local union's secretary/treasurer," he said. "Also, my education in general helps me to process contract information, and it has helped me when I had to draft our Local Memorandum of Understanding."

The accredited BPS degree was designed with busy adults like Budde and Chesnut in mind. The program focuses on the key professional skills of communication, business, information literacy and leadership.

The program currently has about 60 active students.

"The program is designed to be flexible to accommodate the busy lives that these students lead," Huelsbeck said. "Consequently, student numbers fluctuate from term to term depending on what's going on in their lives."

Budde said that those considering enrolling in the program should recognize it's a daily commitment.

"Set a little time aside each night for homework," he said. "Also, just because the classes are eight weeks and online does not make them any less real."

Chesnut said completing a bachelor's degree was a goal 20 years in the making. She encourages adults in similar situations to pursue their educational goals no matter how long it may take to achieve them.

"Pace doesn't matter," she said. "Even if you have to take one class a year to achieve your goal of a bachelor's degree, do it."

For more information about the Bachelor of Professional Studies program, contact Phil Huelsbeck at 715-836-5400 or, or visit the program website.




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