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Online business degree takes grad from fighting crime to launching a business

Oregon State University Ecampus graduate Caitlin Brooks, then a police officer in central Oregon, holds a white dog. She studied business administration online.

Paw enforcement: Life has taken Caitlin Brooks from Hawaii to Oregon, from police officer to college graduate – and now to her role as owner of Heroic Trade, a fitness apparel company.

Full-time job as a police officer didn’t stop Ecampus alum Caitlin Brooks from earning a business administration online bachelor’s

By Jordan Friedman
April 21, 2020

By day, Caitlin Brooks was an online student at Oregon State University Ecampus, completing her business administration online bachelor’s degree.

By night, she was a law enforcement officer who worked odd hours around the clock.

For Brooks, furthering her education ultimately enabled her to launch her own fitness apparel business. But her journey to reaching that point wasn’t easy given her full-time job and the other challenges she encountered.

The quality, support and flexibility offered online at Oregon State became essential to her success. She’s an example of an Ecampus graduate who overcame obstacles to earn a degree that changed the course of her career.

“Working a full-time job, you can’t really just tell your employer, ‘Hey, I can’t work these hours because I have to go to class,’” says Brooks, who completed her degree in 2019. “So I decided that the online program was best.”

Juggling coursework with the night shift

Initially, Brooks moved from Hawaii to Oregon to complete her bachelor’s degree in hospitality at OSU-Cascades in Bend. But while attending school, she heard about a job opening at the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office. Inspired in part by her grandfather – who had worked in law enforcement – Brooks applied, putting school on hold for a few years while attending the police academy.

She worked as a police officer for a few years but then decided to go back to college. She didn’t want to quit her job, however, and knew balancing an education with a full-time role would be difficult.

This led to her enrolling in an online program with Ecampus, which enabled her to engage with rigorous and relevant coursework on her own schedule. And it made all the difference.

As a police officer, she says, “You’re still going to court, and you’re being subpoenaed for different stuff, and you’re testifying, so it’s not a black-and-white job where you leave it and that’s it.”

Brooks chose to study business administration online, she says, because it creates job opportunities in multiple industries. At first, she struggled as an online student to properly manage her time and recognized that she had to be much stricter when it came to structuring her weekly schedule. She bought a planner to organize her life on a day-to-day basis.

She also sought advice from her academic advisor, who helped her map out exactly what courses she would need to earn her degree as quickly as possible. There were many occasions when Brooks would work an entire night shift and then come home at 6:15 a.m. to do two additional hours of schoolwork.

Staying motivated – let alone disciplined – was critical, Brooks says.

“I would write out a month at a time, and then if I needed to, I would put reminders in my phone that I had papers due,” she says. These organizational skills proved to be long-lasting, as she notes that she still uses them in her personal and professional lives.

Changing careers

Fast forward to today, and Brooks is a college graduate – and no longer a police officer. While wrapping up her degree requirements, she decided to launch a fitness apparel company called Heroic Trade, which donates a portion of its profits to first-responder charities.

Brooks says she learned a great deal in her Ecampus business administration online program that allowed her to establish a business of her own. The feel of the online courses, she says, was also similar to running a business that, for the time being, is strictly online.

She’s faced her fair share of challenges in launching Heroic Trade. It took Brooks six months to get the inventory she wanted – much longer than she expected – and she’s responsible for everything from tax forms and managing the website to product design and manufacturing.

Still, her experience at OSU Ecampus has benefitted her significantly.

“I felt like all of the business classes were super helpful, down to knowing how to open a business, as far as getting my tax IDs and all of those requirements that people don’t consider,” says Brooks.

What she learned about accounting, analyzing a market and tailoring products to meet customers’ needs has played a tremendous role in her professional endeavors. Brooks is even considering going back to school for a master’s degree.

And she has advice for those considering earning an online degree.

“Make sure that it’s something you really want to do and that you’re motivated,” she says.

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