Zach Klein's path toward a degree has not been a straight one. After a frustrating first semester at a different university, he transferred midway through his freshman year to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
While he quickly embraced UW-Eau Claire and all it has to offer, he still was unsure of his major and where he hoped a future career might take him. He tried on several majors but none fit quite right.
Eventually Klein made his way to Haas Fine Arts Center, where he found what he was looking for in the performing arts.
He landed a part in a university play, discovered a passion and a talent for opera, connected with a faculty mentor and now is a sophomore theatre major with his sights set on a career in the opera.
"I'd never have guessed that this is the path I'd be on," Klein says of his major and career aspirations. "I went with the flow and that brought me across the bridge. Now I know that I want to act and I'm excited to see where this takes me."
While his journey to this place has had some unexpected twists and turns, Klein has never lost sight of one goal that has always been important to him — he intends to graduate in four years, if not sooner.
"For me, it's really about the money," Klein said of his graduation goal. "If I stayed an extra semester, I'd lose out on the $26,000 or whatever I'd earn in a job staying in school another six months. Plus I'd have tuition, fees and living expenses to pay. I'd rather earn money and put money in the bank than to stay here beyond four years and pay more."
With his graduation goal in mind, Klein took two online classes in summer of 2014, and now is enrolled in two more classes — one online and one on campus — this summer.
"The online classes were perfect for me last summer because I could live at home, work so I could earn money, and still be earning credits toward my degree," Klein said. "I put a couple of general education classes behind me so it didn't matter that I wasn't sure of my major when I took them."
This year, Klein is opting to stay in Eau Claire for the summer. He's excited that he will be able to take two classes that will likely offer two different kinds of experiences since one will bring him to campus each day to interact with faculty and peers, while the other, an online class, will give him the flexibility to pursue other interests during the summer months.
An avid and accomplished runner, Klein says the online class option will make it easier for him to pursue that passion while also allowing him to complete two classes because he will be able to do his online work at the times of the day that will work best for him.
"I think Summer Session is really cool because I don't have to choose between earning credits that I need and taking advantage of other opportunities," says Klein.
UW-Eau Claire's three-week Summer Session classes will run May 26-June 12, and its eight-week Summer Session will be June 15-Aug. 7. Check the Summer Session website for details.
Photo cutline: Sophomore Zach Klein (right) has performed in multiple plays since discovering his passion for acting at UW-Eau Claire. A theater major, Klein is taking Summer Session classes to help him stay on track to graduate in four years, a goal he set for himself as he considered how he could control the costs of earning a degree.