When I initially began the journey of founding a university, my vision was to provide motivated and dedicated, working adults with a way to reach their goals while pursuing professional success through higher education. As an engineer who decided mid-career to devote his professional life to higher education and administration, I knew first-hand the challenges facing the adult learner. I had earned my master’s and doctoral degrees by commuting more than 40 miles to a traditional university while working to support my growing family. In fact, it took me ten years to finish my doctorate from Columbia University, where at the age of 43, I was pronounced “Dr. Hecht.”

Now, not everyone may realize it, but this August will mark the celebration of the 41st Commencement Ceremony at California Southern University. For over 40 years, students have decided to make an impact on their futures by continuing along their paths of lifelong learning. Such a milestone inspires me to reflect on the significance and impact that the journey of higher education can truly have on a person.

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting with one of the graduates from the CalSouthern Class of 2015, Dr. Nanette Yavel, who graduated from the Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) program. She graciously wrote in a letter following our conversation,

“Without the unique structure you envisioned and created, the atmosphere of understanding, patience, and caring you generate through the guidance of mentors and staff, I would never have achieved my dream of a Doctorate in… Click To Tweet
Lifelong CalSouthern Learner, Dr. Nanette Yavel, PsyD

Like me, Dr. Yavel is a lifelong learner—someone that actively seeks out knowledge and attempts to find a way to spread that knowledge to others who would benefit. Her life experience has motivated her to work with children affected by ADD and ADHD, among other individuals, but her educational journey has inspired her to contribute more actively towards the field of psychology in a teaching and writing capacity.

I continue to be inspired by students like Dr. Yavel, who carry on the vision that I started with in 1978. The impact of distance and online education has resulted in the educational experience being brought to the students with their growth in mind. The inclusion of academic support staff, student success advisors, faculty mentors, and more has ensured that the focus remains on students.

Always remember though, no matter your age, the achievement of your goals and dreams can only happen by action. No matter the expanse of the obstacles in one’s path, those individuals who are true lifelong learners understand that knowledge is all around them and so is opportunity and success. Dr. Nanette Yavel proves this point quite well—from a baccalaureate graduate at the age of 28 to finally earning her PsyD at the age of 72, her educational journey came to an end, but her lifelong learning never truly stopped.


About Dr. Donald “Doc” Hecht — Doc is an Educator, University Founder, and President Emeritus writing and discussing the trends and challenges facing higher, online, and distance education, among other topics. Please feel free to comment, make suggestions, or ask any questions! You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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