July 14, 2015 by Tiffany Acosta, NMSU News Center
After a decade removed from the classroom, Harry Day is returning to New Mexico State University to finish a degree he started in 1999. And the Aggie Capstone Graduation Challenge has helped him resume his studies.
Day is one of 78 participants in the ACGC program, which began in spring 2014. ACGC was created to help students who have earned 94 credit hours or more and haven’t attended classes for at least one semester. The program helps them return to NMSU to complete their degrees. ACGC has graduated 19 students with an additional four expected in summer 2015 and 10 in fall 2015.
Day, who attended NMSU from 1999-2003, returned to NMSU earlier this month during the second summer session. ACGC assists students who have been out of school for a variety of time from one year to more than 16.
“I ended up becoming an operations manager at Best Buy and just stopped going to school and didn’t think the degree was important,” Day said. “Back in January, I decided that I need that piece of paper.
“What I’m most excited about is completing something that I had already spent a lot of money on. Those student loans don’t go away so I’m still repaying those from way back when,” he noted. “For me the value of continuing on something that I had kind of given up hope on and now have a rekindled hope that I can do this – it’s absolutely obtainable.”
After working toward a business degree in his first stint at NMSU, the Alamogordo, New Mexico, native has decided to pursue a human resources degree to improve not only his career mobility but also his salary.
“Within my role, human resources is part of my job. I have a very basic overview of the human resources position,” Day said. “Because it is such a specialized area, without a degree, the opportunities are few and far between.”
Day will continue to work full-time while going to school part-time with a projected graduation date of fall 2017.
When he decided to return to the university, Day said a friend referred him to ACGC where he met with cross-campus adviser Marissa Macias.
“She was able to point me in all the right directions that I needed to go and make the process a whole lot easier for me,” he said. “After being out of school, I had no clue where to start or what I needed to do.
“I was incredibly apprehensive about coming back, but now that I’ve gotten back in and have a better understanding, the support from the people around the university is helping my drive and my willingness and my enthusiasm for coming back.”
“Students who return to school through the ACGC program understand the value of a degree and what life is like without one,” Macias said. “They tend to be older and more invested in their academic career. When they return they are ready to get down to business and do what is necessary to graduate.”
The number of ACGC participants has more than doubled in the last year. Macias said she is very proud of the program’s growth, and she believes that students’ relationship with NMSU is a life-long one.
“Perhaps what I’m most proud of is the growth of the program can largely be attributed to referrals from current participants,” she said. “They believe in the program, they know it works, and they want to share their success with other students.”
Day has advice for other former students considering returning to NMSU.
“I think the most important thing is not to be embarrassed or think down upon yourself for leaving for whatever reason you did,” he said.
Day said he understands that managing both work and school may be a challenge but the end result will be worth it.
“I know exactly what I want, I know exactly where I want to go, and this is the tool for me to get exactly where I want to be.”
For more information on ACGC visit http://gradchallenge.nmsu.edu.