Tony Roman has a great career in a specialized field. He’s a driven, ambitious self-starter who now serves as the Google Apps for Education and Mobile Device Administrator for the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s Cooperative Extension division. Take one look at his Google+ profile and you’ll see a connected, innovative, and forward-thinking individual who has a finger on the pulse of the rapidly changing world of technology and communication.
“Most of the things I’ve learned are self-taught or things I’ve picked up through conferences or through direct training on specific topics from the IT field,” Roman said.
But Roman said there’s a missing piece of the puzzle preventing him from advancing his career the way he wants: he never completed his college degree.
“I’ve done some college and a little bit of technical college back when I lived in New York City. I’ve done some here in Madison. My big problem with higher education is that I went to a very specialized math and science school when I was in high school, and they did things at a very advanced level,” Roman said. “After that, I decided to go to a technical college in New York. Unfortunately, the technical college was a lot less structured and at a lot lower level than it was when I was in high school. As a result, I really became disillusioned with how college was at the time.”
Roman briefly attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, but as the dot-com boom took over, he decided to put school on the back burner and put his skills and knowledge about technology to use right away. After working in Washington, D.C. for a while, Roman made his way back to Madison and has been working in IT ever since. But the thought of finishing his college degree never left his mind, and then the UW Flexible Option was announced, with one of the first degree programs being an online IT degree.
“When I actually heard about the UW Flexible Option, I immediately sent emails out trying to find out what was going on with it, what were the details, when was it going live, when would I actually be able to take a look and apply for it and find out how it would actually work for me,” Roman said. “So I guess you can say the moment that very first press release came out, I jumped on it and was asking questions about it.”
Roman said what piqued his interest in the UW Flexible Option was that it provided adult learners an opportunity to earn credit for knowledge and skills gained on the job and through other life experiences.
“I guess that’s what I’m most excited about, is seeing how that works out for the different core competencies, being able to take assessments to in essence, test out of those courses and get credit for life work that has been done,” Roman said.
The UW Flexible Option provides adult learners with the chance to start their studies any month and work at their own pace. Roman said he’s excited to see how UW Flexible Option will open doors for the nearly 700,000 Wisconsin adults with some college experience so that they can finally complete their degrees.
“The way things are these days, a college degree has almost become a requirement for any job out there, regardless of whether or not it is actually going to pertain to what a person is doing,” Roman said. “It has become the new high school diploma.”
For Roman, working through a UW Flexible Option program is about more than just completing his bachelor’s degree. He wants to grow his career into leadership positions that often require an advanced degree. The UW Flexible Option is the first step toward realizing those goals.
“I’m looking at the Flex program as a stepping stone toward going and getting that graduate degree, mainly so I can continue to help people,” Roman said. “I think this is the best way for me to go about doing that.”
Follow Tony Roman’s UW Flexible Option journey as we share part two of his story on Dec. 23.