UWW student spotlight: Billielee Ballard

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A successful chef living in Montague, Massachusetts, Billielee Ballard talks about her journey from culinary school to UWW and her goal of earning an MBA and running her own bakery. Her concentration: Food Service Entrepreneurship. Her advisor: Liz Brinkerhoff.

Every non-traditional age student has a story. What’s your story?
I went to college right out of high school and very quickly realized I wanted to do something else. So, I dropped out of college to go to culinary school where I received my Associates degree. I have had a wonderful career in the food industry. I have been a chef, a culinary instructor and a pastry chef.  I decided to return to school to not only fulfill my dream to finally finish that Bachelor’s degree I abandoned (I hate unfinished projects), but I realized I needed to learn some business skills that I had not had the opportunity to learn in the kitchen. I feel like increasing my knowledge and finishing my Bachelor’s will allow me to take my career to new places.

Why did you choose UMass Amherst UWW to complete your degree?
I chose UWW for two reasons, first so I could design my own concentration. Also because I could take both online and on-campus classes, allowing me flexibility and a large selection of classes.

What is the best part about being a UWW student for you?
1) The online classes fit into a busy schedule and are very flexible because I don’t have to be in class at a certain time.  2) The Frameworks of Understanding (UWW 191) class was a great way to polish my rough paper writing skills and challenge my critical thinking ability. I think this class is an excellent way for adult learners to get back in the saddle.

What are you studying?
I have designed a concentration that incorporates my 20 years of culinary experience and focuses on business and management classes: Food Service Entrepreneurship. I am also working towards an Information Technology Minor.

What’s been your favorite class at UMass Amherst so far?
I really don’t know. I have had many classes I have loved and many wonderful teachers. I don’t think I can narrow it down.

What have been the benefits of taking your classes online?
I have taken a mix of online and on-campus classes and I love the flexibly of the online classes. I also love the discussions in the online classes. The discussions allow me to experience others’ viewpoints and it challenges my own perspectives.

How do you balance work, school and other responsibilities? What advice do you have for other students finishing their degrees?
I have had to learn to let minor things go and only focus on the essentials. I also have an amazing support system cheering me on and helping me. My advice is to other students is to remind yourself that this opportunity worth the sacrifice.

What are your future plans professionally and personally?
My next goal is to work toward my MBA and in the future open my own business, very likely a bakery (or a few bakeries)

Tell readers something cool about yourself that no one would guess about you?
I trained martial arts for 5 years and was a self-defense instructor.