Michele Lawrence Epitomizes
Virtual Learning Experience

8-18-09

Michele Lawrence of Somerville N.J. has virtually mastered the art of learning anywhere at any time, and she has no plans to slow down. A 2003 graduate of Mercer County Community College, she earned an A.A.S. in Office Systems Technology.

Lawrence went on to graduate from Thomas Edison State College with bachelor's and master's degrees in Liberal Studies and Human Resources Management, respectively. Today, she is again studying at Mercer to obtain an A.A.S. in Business Management. She enjoys her versatile career as cheese department manager at Wegmans in Bridgewater, N.J. and is also on special assignment as café manager. As part of her job she trains managers and employees, schedules, places orders and ensures top customer service. She also facilitates seminars and mentors high school and college students interested in food industry careers.

"It is great to work with senior managers who listen to my ideas and suggestions on how I can further develop the skills of employees," said Lawrence. "I use what I've learned in school and apply it directly in my training seminars."

Always a hard worker, Michele began her career as a teenager at McDonalds. She became a manager there at age 17. Graduating from Freehold Township High School in 2000, Lawrence transferred to a four-year college for a year, but found it ill-suited for her because of the cost, and not very adaptable to her work schedule.

According to Lawrence, choosing Mercer was an easy decision due to its affordability, course flexibility and online options. Interested in computers, in 2001 she enrolled in Mercer's popular Office Systems program, taking 30 percent of her classes on campus and the remainder online via Mercer's Virtual College.

Through the New Jersey Virtual College Campus Consortium (NJVCCC), Lawrence is noted for taking the most online classes of anyone at Mercer. Through the consortium she took virtual classes offered through every New Jersey community college. "The NJVCCC was cost effective for me, and I could take more classes online than I could fit into a traditional classroom setting with my work schedule," Lawrence said. Because of her knowledge in this growing area, she was invited to speak at an NJVCC meeting in 2003.

While working toward her bachelor's at Thomas Edison, where she often took a full course load of 12 to 15 credits, Lawrence accelerated her degree by simultaneously taking courses at Mercer. Her goals include starting a second master's at Thomas Edison next year. She is also considering Ph.D. programs as she hopes to teach college part-time, particularly online courses, in order to share her knowledge with other non-traditional college students.

Lawrence says her love of academe is a 100 percent turnaround. "I never thought that I would attend college, but after attending Mercer I realized I belonged," she said. "I became a better student and a better manager. I'm more prepared now to handle anything that comes my way."

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