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Recent Graduate Finds Himself Overwhelmed by Employer Interest


Note: This article first published in July 2021. In honor of National Online Learning Day (Sept. 15), we are sharing it again with readers. Bellevue University has offered online education options since the early 90s. Currently, 93% of the students are fully online. 

James Clemens began a new position in May, right before completing his bachelor’s degree at Bellevue University and graduating in June.

“Even before my degree was officially conferred, I had four hospitals looking to hire me. It got to the point where I had to take my resume off the job boards,” he said. “I can't thank Bellevue University enough for the opportunity to have been a student. The possibilities were, and still are, endless.”

Clemens is now a pharmacy technician for Chester County Hospital/Penn Medicine in Pennsylvania. After completing his Bachelor of Science in Business and Management leadership, he made the move from a retail pharmacy to the hospital setting. “I chose that major because I believed it would help advance my career path, no matter what doors opened because of earning this degree,” he said.

Clemens now splits his time between four pharmacy locations. “The work is very challenging, it's fast paced and no two days are alike,” he said. “The best part about this position is that I learn something new every day.”

A Refreshing Higher Education Experience

Clemens said his previous college experiences had been off putting. “Most of the professors couldn't care less if you showed up to class or not,” he said. Understandably, he was uncertain at first about returning to the classroom after 21 years.

However, as he began looking into completing his degree, he found his employer had a partnership with Bellevue University that made the degree more affordable. He also found another connection - Bellevue University’s commitment to America’s military men and women.

“My grandmother served in the United States Navy during World War II, as one of the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service. My uncle was a career sailor, having served in Vietnam and in Nicaragua.

Clemens also was unsure about studying online, but quickly changed his mind after beginning his program.

“Being part of the cohort program was excellent,” he said. “The professor was with us from start to finish, I was in class with my peers from my company and the connections we made lasted long after graduating from college.”

He also appreciated the ability to add his own unique perspective to the experience.

“When I was taking the Kirkpatrick Signature Series course, my LGBTQ identity came with me to the table,” he said. Part of that class discussed things like civil rights and the progress we've made over the years. That allowed me to shed some light from firsthand experience, without spinning the subject one way or the other.”

One professor also completely changed Clemens’ college experience -- Michelle Nekuda.

“She made online learning fun, informative and rewarding at the same time,” he said. “I've never had a professor take such interest in her students as much as she has. If I'd had professors like this years ago, I can only imagine where I'd be today.”

Graduating Into a Community

Clemens reluctantly decided to travel to Omaha to participate in graduation, completing his college experience. “Make no mistake, it took some prodding from my partner,” he said. “Had I stuck with that decision, I'd have regretted that for the rest of my life.”

Graduating from Bellevue University is a memory he will always treasure. “The experience was awesome,” he said. “Walking across the stage to receive my diploma and having my picture taken still replays over and over in my mind.”

After the commencement, Clemens decided to have lunch at the Horseshoe Casino in nearby Council Bluffs, Iowa. He soon learned he had joined a devoted community of alumni when after finishing his meal and sitting down at the bar, a woman struck up a conversation. Little did he know, she had seen his diploma and graduation cap. “Out of nowhere, she buys me a drink and says, ‘From one Bruin to another Bruin.’ ’’ It’s an experience he’ll never forget.

Paying It Forward

Clemens says he wants to share the experiences he’s learned from Bellevue University. “If my experience helps just one person then it's all worth it,” he said.

He’s already doing just that. “I decided to donate to the university in the hopes that one deserving student will receive that money in scholarship,” he said. ”What better way to say thank you by paying it forward?”