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Balancing Act: Graduate Reflects on Non-Traditional College Experience

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James Rigg graduated with honors from NWU on May 16, earning a degree in business administration.
Rigg returned to college after 20 years and became the first in his family to earn a college degree.

Two factors convinced James Rigg to return to college after 20 years: personal growth and his teenage children.

“I am setting an example for my teenage children, not only for the importance of a good college career, but also to show them how important it is to focus on higher education when you get out of high school,” he said.

Rigg was among approximately 565 students to receive a Nebraska Wesleyan University degree on May 16. He graduated with honors, earning a Bachelor of Business Administration degree through the university’s Adult Undergraduate Program, which offers accelerated programs to adult students.

“I must admit that I had my doubts when I started,” he said. “I wondered if I would have the ability and fortitude to see this through to the end, and I’m ecstatic to say, yes.”

By day, Rigg is the manager of safety and physical security at Lincoln Electric Systems. He manages a team that provides a safety resource for approximately 500 employees. One of his responsibilities is to assure that employees are protected. Rigg credits NWU with exposing him to experiences and services that have helped him immensely in his career.

“When I started at Lincoln Electric Systems, I was a line tech. I never had any aspirations of doing anything else,” he said. “Five or six years ago job opportunities opened up in the office and I was intrigued. I knew that my interviewing skills were really poor, but my technical skills were very good.”

By that time Rigg had already begun his NWU classes. To improve his interviewing skills, a professor pointed him to the Career and Counseling Center and suggested he set up a mock interview.

“I think I used their services three or four times,” he recalled. “When the interview came, I got the job. I still say I got the job because of Nebraska Wesleyan and that process and the improvement I made.”

Rigg said he valued the relationships he built with fellow students, his professors, and his advisor.

“There is an advisor at NWU who recognized that I didn’t take classes between April and July, as my son plays select baseball during that time. It didn’t take long for my advisor to recognize it,” said Rigg. “I could always rely on her to contact me at the end of July about the classes that I’d need to take the next semester. She’d reach out to me, making me feel like I was her only focus.”

At commencement, Rigg shared multiple examples of balancing his career, his family and his classes from coordinating babysitters to taking late-night phone calls from work while studying.

“If nothing else, your time on campus, if only for a few hours a week, was an opportunity for you to remove those concerns from your mind and forget about all of the other things that require your attention,” he told the Class of 2015.

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Nebraska Wesleyan University’s Adult Undergraduate Program offers degrees in Lincoln and Omaha. See a list of degrees and upcoming open houses.