Taking the Leap Into A Master’s Program Mid-Career

“You are never too old, and it is never too late to accomplish your goals.”

To others, Maelyn Lessard has always come across as a confident, driven person. But her parents’ bitter two-year divorce during her freshman year at the University of Georgia took its toll on her college aspirations.

“I couldn’t pass a test or focus,” Lessard said. “I lost myself.”

After 4 ½ years on and off academic probation, a 1.99 GPA and still no degree, Lessard left UGA feeling defeated.

“That failure weighted me down for most of my life,” she said.

Refusing to let herself forever be “that student” so unlike her true self, several years later, she petitioned the school to allow her to take the one class she needed to raise her GPA high enough to graduate.

She was accepted, earned an A in the course and secured her bachelor’s degree in December 1994, finally relieving the burden of not having graduated.

“Well, so I thought.” Lessard said. “I never stopped feeling defeated, because I viewed the poor performance as a personal failure.”

Two daughters, a successful medical sales career and more than 25 years later, Lessard decided to change that, gifting herself a second chance for her 50th birthday.

She applied to earn her master’s degree through Florida Tech’s extended studies program.

“I work a job that requires travel. I had to be able to travel and get my degree,” Lessard said. “I really like the online program. I fell in love with the coursework. It became something I did as a gift to myself.”

This second go-around was not without its own struggles, though. Aside from adjusting to changes in the academic world since her last degree, during her coursework, Lessard also started a new job. In 2017, she and her family were displaced by Hurricane Irma, leaving her no choice but to drop a class while they searched for a new residence, moving six times in nine months while they rebuilt their house.

This time, however, she didn’t let the setbacks derail her.

“I feel the classes actually helped me to focus on what is important and not feel sorry for myself.”

Lessard credits her success and resilience to her supportive husband, her parents, her two daughters—also Panthers!—and her academic advisor at Florida Tech.

“I felt encouraged and supported throughout the program,” she said. “I met people from all over the world taking classes and doing projects with them. You really learn. I’m a better employee, parent and person from this education.”

Lessard graduated with her Master of Science in Management Dec. 15, 2018. But, she’s not done yet: She recently finished her application for Florida Tech’s DBA program.

“I believe that at my age, we need to make sure we are expanding our minds,” Lessard said. “Don’t be scared to take the leap. It is worth it.”

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