Fueling career success with competency-based education [student case study]


Posted In: Case Studies, Students

Jun • 1 • 2014

Tammy Kruger is bright and motivated, but like many others, she didn’t opt to go to college right after high school. She had her first daughter, born with cerebral palsy, at a young age, and decided to focus on her family first. She explained, “I think I was afraid. I thought, ‘Can I do this? And how do I go about doing it?’ My mother never discussed college with me, and the counselors never discussed college.”

So instead of going to college, Tammy started working the cash register at Cumberland Farms, part of the Cumberland Gulf Group of Companies. Over the next 15 years, she moved up to assistant manager, then manager, and then training manager—meaning that she trains other store managers in addition to running her own store. Tammy beamed, “I pride myself in being one of the best managers the company has. Last year, I was awarded Store Manager of the Year.”

As she climbed her way up the ladder, Tammy set her sights on upper management. “I already look at my job as a career, it’s definitely not just a job to me,” she said. But top leadership positions require levels of communication, teamwork, and critical thinking skills that aren’t always acquired through day-to-day operations. She admits that she’s always struggled with her writing, but she’s also always taken initiative to improve herself. So when one of her mentors raved about her experience with a new degree program designed for working adults, Tammy knew she wanted in.

Tammy enrolled in College for America in January 2014, and only five months later, she’s halfway to earning an Associate of Art in General Studies with a Concentration in Business. Her husband is taking on more of the household and family needs so she can focus on her CfA projects when she gets home from work. Her mentor has also been supportive: “She helped me with a couple of questions in the beginning, but mostly with the fear of getting the process going. She eased my mind.”

With just a little boost of confidence, Tammy’s on her way up again. Between the projects and a little extra support from the CfA Writing Center, she’s shown such dramatic improvement in her communication skills that she’s been asked to help with the company newsletter. Tammy has noticed improvements in the way she listens to her employees and communicates with them: “The projects are helping me understand that each of my employees is different in every different aspect. It’s done tremendous things for work.” And her supervisors are taking notice.

Now that she’s pursuing her degree, managing her responsibilities with more confidence, and interacting with employees with more poise, Tammy’s supervisors have started to groom her for a regional manager or area field manager position.

“My boss has been teaching me things all along as a part of his job, but I think having him know that I’m actually going to earn a degree has further reinforced that I’m serious about my career.”