Not everyone can say they make an impact in a person’s life every day. Brenda Rodriguez does just that, even though she doesn’t meet her client patients face-to-face. As an operations manager for QTC, a leading provider of disability and occupational health examination services, Brenda is tasked with scheduling exams for people across the United States – notably, in isolated rural areas where it can be much harder for patients to reach a health care professional. 

“My department consists of about 30 staff members. I oversee all of them,” the 2021 University of Arizona Global Campus (UAGC) graduate and current master's degree student explains. “I have three supervisors that report to me directly, with 10–12 employees under each of them. “We’re not on the treatment side, but we help people get the benefits they might be seeking.”

Helping people comes naturally to Brenda, as she often plays the role of caregiver at home. Living in San Antonio, Texas, with her husband and young son, Brenda and her family have seen their share of struggles. When challenges arise, Brenda steps up to lead, as she does at work.

While attending UAGC, Brenda was surprised to be faced with two stressful events at once.

“It was a hard and trying time finishing my bachelor’s degree, because my husband had stage IV cancer, and I also became a mother,” she recalls. “That was hard getting through the assignments on-time while having little to no energy and dealing with a newborn on top of it.

Ultimately, her husband survived, and she defied her own expectations as a mother. The experience challenged her in ways she never  thought. 

“I never thought that I was going to be a mom. I got pregnant in my 30s. I had a couple of miscarriages before, but God gave me the opportunity to become a mother. I was very scared, didn’t want extra stress, but my husband was and is my biggest cheerleader, keeping me focused and encouraging me to never give up because you’re doing it for us, doing it for the baby.”

Feeling the Squeeze

Brenda found her calling in health care early, yet as she’s worked her way up in the industry, she’s been acutely aware of two things: one, the invisible glass ceiling that keeps qualified leaders — including many women — from achieving their potential and two, the growing impact of automation. 

“It’s like getting squeezed from above and below.” Automation was the first challenge Brenda says she was forced to overcome in her career.

“I actually started with this company in a medical records position, receiving records from various agencies,” she explains. “I was in charge of pulling those records, and then it became automated, so I moved into the scheduling department.”

I wasn’t able to be elevated to a manager’s position without the degree, so that’s what really lit the fire under me. I wouldn’t have been able to go further and move forward without my degree.

Brenda entered the health care industry with an associate’s degree and finished her Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management online. While her family cheered from home, her company supported her educational journey through a partnership with UAGC that allowed her to graduate without student debt.

“I knew in the long run that it was going to be better for me,” she says. “I worked every Saturday I could, worked extra hours, and that impressed the higher-ups. They wanted to move me into one of their leadership training programs. That made me go even further like, ‘I need to finish my degree.’”

While enrolled at UAGC, Brenda was promoted to a supervisory role. That may have been enough to satisfy someone else, but she remained committed with an eye toward the next level of leadership.

“I wasn’t able to be elevated to a manager’s position without the degree, so that’s what really lit the fire under me,” she explains. “I wouldn’t have been able to go further and move forward without my degree.”

Through the Ceiling

Brenda’s promotion to operations manager – the breakthrough position she had her sights on for so long – came after she completed her bachelor’s degree. Every day, she’s involved in senior leadership meetings, offering proposals and making decisions that affect the care of patients throughout the country. 

“I’m able to participate more in meetings now. I’ve become much more active than passive,” she says. “My leaders are able to see that I’m growing, and I tell my staff that knowledge is power.”

She further explains, “You can take knowledge and use it, and that’s what I’ve been able to do; participate in new projects, develop new systems within the company, and share my knowledge of what I do in the job because I’m able to be a key stakeholder.”

“My Ultimate Goal”

A lifelong learner who refuses to rest on her laurels, Brenda is succeeding on the job but is preparing for the next step in her career. To reach the executive level, she needs a master’s degree. Not only would it allow her to grow beyond her position, but it would allow her to work across divisions.

“That is my ultimate goal,” she says — and putting everything she’s learning to work on a daily basis. “It’s going to open so many doors for me,” she says.

Currently, Brenda is on the fifth course of her Master of Science in Health Information and Analytics at UAGC. 

You can take knowledge and use it, and that’s what I’ve been able to do; participate in new projects, develop new systems within the company, and share my knowledge of what I do in the job because I’m able to be a key stakeholder.

She’s also expecting another baby. Like her first time through the online learning journey, she says she knows time management is everything, and she’s leaning on her support system at work and at home to get her through the most challenging moments. 

“It's a lot harder this time around and not so much because of the class aspect, but because there’s a full-blown 2-year-old and now he’s running around all over the place and wants his momma to play with him,” she says. “What it comes down to is time management. I have my days I set aside that I work and try to get as much done during the nap time. 

“I’m a very organized person so I do have to write everything down that I need to get done. Tuesday and Wednesday, I’ll work on my discussion, so I don’t have to log on Thursday because it’s already turned in. Prioritizing my schoolwork and working on certain days has helped during this period, and leaning on my instructors.” 

It’s never easy, Brenda says. One week she was diagnosed with the flu and ended up in the hospital. “I was really scared that I was not going to finish my schoolwork,” she says. Brenda got an extension from her instructor, and was able to complete her classwork. So far, she’s maintained a 4.0 GPA, and is on-track to graduate in February 2024.

A Leader and An Inspiration

Brenda is not only an inspiration to her family, but she’s an inspiration at work. Since she earned her promotion, members of her staff have decided they want to return to school as well. 

“[My friend] didn’t think she’d be able to go back to school, but they see how I’m able to get it done, how I talk about it, and how I explain it,” she says. “She’s already in the fourth class of her bachelor’s and that makes me really proud. I’m glad that she’s seen [success] in herself and how, in order to move up, you need that bachelor’s degree.”

Meanwhile at home, Brenda’s son may be a little too young to fully recognize the impact of his mom’s success, but along with the new baby due in August, he will grow up knowing from mom that education is really that one thing that nobody can take away from you.

“No matter what situation you’re in or your background, once you have knowledge, it’s yours,” she says.

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Special Terms and Conditions: Successful completion of this program by itself does not lead to licensure or certification in any state, regardless of concentration or specialization. Students seeking licensure or certification in a particular profession are strongly encouraged to carefully research the requirements prior to enrollment. Requirements may vary by state. UAGC does not guarantee that any professional organization will accept a graduate’s application to sit for any exam for the purpose of professional certification. 

Certain degree programs may not be available in all states.

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