Noelle Pikus Pace on Balancing Priorities and Education

Olympian and CTU Graduate Noelle Pikus Pace to speak at CTU 2015 graduationOlympic Silver medalist, World Champion and CTU alumnus, Noelle Pikus Pace, is scheduled to speak at CTU’s 2015 commencement ceremony in June. “It is a true honor to be the commencement speaker,” says the decorated American athlete, mother, business owner and author.

Always engaged in a variety of pursuits and interests, Noelle is no stranger to the balancing act. At one point in her life she was training for the World Cup, raising small children and completing an MBA program at CTU.  She credits CTU’s flexible, online learning approach for enabling her to juggle the priorities in her life. “As a CTU student, I was able to connect with my class, peers and professors from anywhere in the world.”

Accessibility is a key reason working professionals, like you, choose CTU to pursue their educational goals, but how do you balance school alongside other priorities? Noelle has this advice:

Set Goals
Although Noelle wasn’t always clear about where her career would lead, she did know that having a strong educational foundation was important. So despite having many degree pursuits during her undergraduate years, she remained focused on her ultimate goals while in graduate school—to spend time with her family and discover a way to increase her family’s income. As she completed her MBA requirements, an entrepreneurial bug struck and that eventually led her to starting the online retailer, SnowFire Hats.

Move Forward
Every day you will face challenges—large and small. Regardless of the obstacles you encounter, progress forward says Noelle. “Life has its ups and downs, but the important thing is to set your sights on the end result.” Noelle looks at every challenge or failure as an opportunity to learn and grow. She also recognizes that without those adverse experiences she might not be where she is today.

Balanced Focus
According to Noelle, balance is not about focusing on any one area of your life. While you’re in school, maintaining strong grades and keeping up with class assignments will become a priority; however, that shouldn’t diminish the attention you give to other areas of your life. Sometimes that may mean shuffling what comes first. For instance, if a key project is due this week, then you may need to make arrangements to have dinner prepared for your family so you can focus on studying.

Weekly Planning is Key
Noelle suggests setting weekly goals at the beginning of each week. Then schedule your priorities—work, personal and educational. Block times for specific activities like completing reading assignments or responding to discussion board questions online. Also make time for the activities that fuel you whether that means downtime with your family or engaging in a recreational sport.

Be Kind to Yourself
It’s easy to get into the habit of always being busy—running from place to place and jumping from activity to activity. But there is a dark side to constantly being on the go, and that’s burn out. “Some days you need to step back,” says Noelle, “so cut yourself some slack. Maybe take a nap, if you need it.” Taking time re-charge is just as important as the effort you put into completing your schoolwork.

Ask for Help
“It takes a whole community to make a dream come true,” Noelle says. It’s difficult to achieve major goals alone, so enlist the support of those around you—from friends and family to co-workers or maybe even hired help. Fortunately, Noelle was able to lean on her husband who stepped in when she needed time to focus on skeleton training or schoolwork. “We have a strong, loving relationship that helped us communicate what we each needed during the time I was in school.”

Access CTU Resources
“The CTU website is extremely user-friendly,” explains Noelle, “I was able to easily get a hold of my professors when I had questions.” CTU also provides students with a range of services from Student Success Coaches to an online portal where students can access library resources. In many cases, help is just a few clicks away so take advantage of what is available to help you succeed.

“Earning your degree is a big accomplishment,” encourages Noelle, “it takes sacrifice, commitment and determination. As you forge ahead, just keep moving forward and never stop. You can do it.”

Find out more about the Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) degree that Noelle earned.