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Leading by example: Going back to college as a parent

Todd Van Hess, Oregon State Ecampus business administration alumnus, walks down the street with his family and dog.

With a family at home and a demanding job, Todd Van Hess found ample support while earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration online from Oregon State University Ecampus.

Working dad sets standard for his kids while earning business degree online

By Tyler Hansen
Oct. 25, 2018
(Editor’s note: This story was updated on Sept. 28, 2021)

All parents have been down this road: You tell your child to pick her clothes off the bedroom floor and she replies, “Well, you leave your clothes on your bedroom floor too!”


Kids are too smart to obey the flawed “do as I say, not as I do” parenting style.

Todd Van Hess knows this. Like all good dads, he wants the best for his three children. He knows that their best chance to lead successful lives is for them to earn college degrees when the time comes.

And like all good dads, Todd knows that if he’s going to hold his kids to a certain standard, he needs to lead by example.

Todd Van Hess interviewPlay

Todd Van Hess says his Oregon State business classes helped him become a better manager in real time while working a full-time job.

He supplied the best example possible when he walked across a stage at Oregon State University’s annual commencement ceremony and accepted his diploma after earning his degree online through Oregon State Ecampus.

As the saying goes, if you’re gonna talk the talk, you better walk the walk.

“I wanted to set an example that if their dad could do it, so could they,” Todd says. “I know I want my children to go to college and in the future, they’ll need to go to college, so how can I preach that to them without a college degree myself?”

Finding support and flexibility as an online learner

Earning a degree while raising a family and working full time is easier said than done, but Todd — backed by unwavering support from his wife, kids, parents and employer — knew it was possible.

More importantly, he knew all the hard work would be worth it.

3 success tips for parents who learn online

1. Prioritize your time: Determine your other time commitments and when you’re most productive, and use a time worksheet to stay organized and on task.

2. Designate a quiet zone: When it’s time to study, go to a place in your house that is free of distractions, and set boundaries so your family can help you focus.

3. Be an active participant: OSU Ecampus students say they’re most successful when they engage with their instructors and worldwide network of classmates.

He enrolled in Oregon State’s online bachelor’s degree program in business administration. The distance learning experience provided the academic challenge he wanted while also allowing him to maintain stability at home and at work.

“Learning online fit into my life’s demands,” says Todd, mentioning a preference of many who go to college as a parent. “It allowed me to spend time with the family, go to work and take the dog for a walk because I wasn’t sitting in a lecture class. It allowed me to attain the same goals without uprooting everyone’s life that we had established already.”

Commitment to education leads to job promotion

Before Todd even completed his degree requirements through OSU Ecampus, he was promoted to a management position for the satellite TV company he’s worked at for more than 20 years.

He had already carved out a nice career for himself without a college degree, but he says that what he learned in his Oregon State business classes have made him a better employee — one who is primed for advancement and one whose children have witnessed the rewards of dedication to education.

Todd committed to leading at work and at home. Are you ready to do the same?

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