Adapting to Change One Degree at a Time
“Supporting a family was number one in my mind... it was critical to finish college and reach my personal goals.”
ROSEBURG, Oregon – Jerry O’Sullivan is a husband and father of four. Now the senior operations director at ADAPT in Roseburg, he is a long way from the journey he started years ago after graduating from Riddle High School. He originally went to Oregon State University to study mechanical engineering. But a few years into his studies, he discovered he wasn’t quite ready for college.
“Coming from a small town like Riddle, I just wasn’t ready for the culture shock,” he said.
Jerry decided to move back to Douglas County and work as a truck driver. For the next 15 years, things went very well in his career—until he lost his job.
“That ‘aha’ moment came in 2008 during the recession,” he said. “Gas prices shot up, I got laid off as a log truck driver. There was no reason for me not to go back to school.”
Jerry chose UCC to pursue his studies in Human Services. He arrived on campus in the Spring of 2009 to earn his AAOT degree. He applied for several scholarships and was chosen as a Ford Family Foundation Restart Scholar. The scholarship paved the way for him to finish school—all the way through his bachelor’s degree.
College was not easy. He received a lot of support at UCC which he said was very beneficial. As a non-traditional student, his schedule was tight and he often found himself getting into challenging situations. He was taking classes non-stop—even through summer terms and working as well.
“Supporting a family was number one in my mind,” he said. “But it was critical for me to finish college and reach my personal goals.”
Jerry says his experience at UCC taught him how to study and apply things. He graduated in 2010, transferred to the University of Oregon, and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Family and Human Services in 2012. That same year, he enrolled at Northwest Christian University and went on to earn a master’s degree in business administration.
“Along with gaining the knowledge of ethics in Human Services, (UCC) was a great foundation for the rest of my work,” he said.
Graduating from UCC has been very beneficial for his current role at ADAPT, where he has now worked for nine years. He uses his background in business and human services to oversee operations, facilities, custodial work, security, information technology, maintenance, and any other hat he needs to wear.
When asked for any words of wisdom for students pursuing Human Services, he says the field is incredibly broad.
“There are so many different directions that one may go,” he said. “Volunteer in as many different areas as you can and treat it like a job. These opportunities open doors and let people play the field. Think of it as the longest job interview ever.”
After Jerry finished college as a first generation graduate, his wife was inspired to get her degree as well. She graduated from UCC with an associate degree. She is now a Head Start teacher in Roseburg.
Story by Hannah Horvath
About Umpqua Community College
Nestled in the beautiful North Umpqua River Valley, Umpqua Community College is the regional center for higher education in Douglas County, Oregon. UCC provides high quality college degree programs, workforce development, and community learning opportunities.
Sandra Angeli-Gade, PhD - Contact
Program Coordinator, Assistant Professor, Human Services
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