Matthew Hughes is a man with many titles.
Professionally, he is the North American task force specialist for global plastic conglomerate ALPLA. In school, he holds the title of student at the University of Arizona Global Campus. But most importantly, at home, he holds the titles of husband and father to three children.
It’s the latter two titles that are motivating Matthew every day as he works to finish his Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Management.
“I want to show my kids that attaining an education is important and that it’s never too late to earn your degree,” he explains.
Earning a degree is something Matthew had planned more than 20 years ago after he graduated from high school. He earned an associate degree and enrolled in a traditional brick-and-mortar school, but ended up leaving school without a degree in 2004 when he was offered a job in the plastics manufacturing industry.
One job led to another, and before he knew it, Matthew had worked in plastics for 15 years. With ALPLA, he’s achieved a position that’s enabled him to travel the country to provide technical training, processing support, and troubleshooting assistance to the company’s 17 production facilities.
While he had been bucking the trend of higher unemployment for workers without a bachelor’s degree, Matthew knew that finishing his education would enable him to grow within his company and qualify for positions with greater responsibility.
“After a 15-year hiatus, I decided to return to college to finish what I started all those years ago,” he says.
When it came to choosing which school to attend, the decision turned out to be easier than Matthew expected because his company had already established a partnership with Ashford University*. ALPLA employees are eligible for Ashford’s Full Tuition Grant, which, when combined with the company’s tuition assistance program, covers all of Matthew’s educational costs, including tuition, course materials, technology fees, prior learning assessment fees, and graduation fee.
“The partnership is a fantastic opportunity for which I will be forever grateful,” Matthew says.
Choosing organizational management as his degree program, he determined, would help him get closer to his goal of being promoted within the ranks of ALPLA. With courses that include Strategic Planning for Organizations, Business Communications, and Organizational Development, he’s building a foundation of business knowledge that can be applied immediately to his task force specialist role, while also gaining invaluable leadership skills through courses such as Principles of Personal and Organizational Leadership. He also credits his instructor Dr. Frederick Littles.
“It was only my second class at Ashford, but Dr. Littles immediately let it be known that passing the course would require determination and drive and that you couldn't just float by,” he recalls. “This was truly what I needed to get me to dig down deep and find that drive to succeed in my studies.”
Despite taking 15 years off and switching from a traditional school to an online format, Matthew found that by making a few adjustments to his schedule, he was able to find the balance between school, work, and family priorities. Early on, he says, he learned that he needed to manage his time wisely.
“A few hours here and there isn’t going to cut it, and you have to be determined to make the time to complete your studies,” he advises.
“I was surprised at how easy it was to get into the groove of taking online classes,” he adds. “It’s now second nature to me to work on coursework every day without feeling overwhelmed.”
With his sights set firmly on graduating in October 2020, Matthew is keeping his focus on his courses while setting an example for his children and anyone else who wants to follow in his footsteps.
“I hope that my experience will inspire others within our organization to use the opportunities available to us to earn a degree and set themselves up for future success,” he says.
* Ashford University is now the University of Arizona Global Campus