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Jessica Collins

Leveraging Military Experience, Dual Degrees and Can-Do Spirit

By DeVry University


Jessica Collins is busy...always rushing. Not because time management isn’t her thing, but because she packs a lot into each day, and that requires precision time management. When Perspectives called to interview this DeVry (’15) and Keller (’16) alumna, Collins had just finished a grueling CrossFit workout and was en route to tackle the next item on her to-do list. 

A native Californian, Collins, 33, was raised in Sacramento, describing her childhood as “simple, normal, fun for my brother and me.” Said Collins, “I remember wanting to be a dancer or an editor when I grew up. My grandmother, who raised me, gently guided me toward the more stable of those careers, but my high school grades were lacking, and at 18, I just wasn’t ready for college. I decided to join the military.”

Bolstered by her grandmother – whose straightforward recipe for success mixes equal measures of hard work and determination – and 11 years in the U.S. Navy, Collins, at age 30, finally felt ready for college.

“My Post 9-11 GI Bill® education benefits gave me 36 months to achieve my goals,” explained Collins. “Since I wanted to earn both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in those three years, I needed a ‘college strategy.’ DeVry offered key advantages, so in late 2013 I began my first course. I vividly recall walking into the San Diego campus. It was literally a new beginning for me.” 

Like so many other students, Collins took advantage of:

  • College credit granted for previously completed military coursework.
  • The ability to draw on her DeVry degree, in Business Administration, to get a head start on credits required for her Keller master’s degree, in Human Resource Management.
  • The university’s diverse student body and family-feeling, military-friendly environment.
  • A challenging curriculum and the flexibility to fit school and work into her life.

True to her go-getter style, as she neared the end of her undergrad program, Collins set her sights on a six-month internship at the San Diego County Regional Airport.

Wanting the job was one thing. Getting it was quite another. “With Grandma on one shoulder and [Career Development] Professor Hayden on the other, I worked hard to put into practice what I was learning in CARD405,” said Collins. “It sounds so simple to say it all worked out, when in actuality my job search skills needed a lot of polish. But in the end it did all work out!”

With her 36-month clock ticking, Collins embarked on both her master’s degree program and the airport internship. “The job seemed tailor-made for me,” said Collins. “The business and HR skills I learned at DeVry, and was taking to the next level at Keller, helped me build relationships with the airlines, airport concessioners and the [Transportation Security Administration]. I actually felt my education working!”

According to Collins, “My internship flew by – pun intended!” With her first career-focused job behind her, Collins focused full time on completing her master’s program. As planned, she finished on schedule…right at the three-year mark. But before doing so, Collins achieved something no one ever had.

 

SHRM Conference Bound

In early 2016, Collins made a decision that became the single most powerful affirmation of her chosen career path. That decision was to apply for a new scholarship, exclusively for military veterans, offered by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) to attend its annual conference later in the year.

“I remember getting that call from a Virginia area code…the voice on the other end telling me I’d won the scholarship and would be heading to D.C. in June, all expenses paid,” recalled Collins, who felt just being among America’s top HR professionals would have been enough. The experience turned out to be so much more. “It’s like I was in an adult Disney World! Nothing can match attending a conference and exhibition directly related to your profession. It’s unbelievably energizing and adds a new dimension to learning. I left feeling that good kind of exhausted and 100 percent sure HR is my life’s work.”

What’s Next?

With school behind her, Collins passed the torch as secretary of DeVry’s San Diego chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success and leaves behind her rich legacy of campus leadership (for which she was recognized at her undergrad commencement ceremony). “I wanted it all, and got it all – and more – at DeVry,” said Collins. “Now it’s time to move back to Sacramento, focus on my career, and spoil my nephews rotten.”

 

Note: GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.