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Meet Alum Horace Winston — From high school dropout to MBA grad

President of New York/New Jersey UOPX alumni chapter is a champion of education.

For high school dropout Horace Winston (MBA, 2020), saying he has done all right for himself may be an understatement. He’s earned an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, and he’s not stopping there.

Winston, president of the New York/New Jersey alumni chapter, was awarded his Master of Business Administration in January, and he has submitted his application for the University’s Doctor of Management in Organizational Leadership program.

“It took me until my 30s to realize my priorities,” says Winston, who manages flight attendants as a field service manager for Delta Air Lines in New York City and Newark, New Jersey. “It also took some maturity and knowing that an education can help to get ahead.”

Making work job No. 1

Winston, 37, grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, and acknowledges he took a longer-than-typical route to realize the difference a degree can make. He dropped out of high school at age 16, taking on a retail job at a megastore as a cashier. By 18, he was a manager. School became a nonpriority. He was making enough money that it didn’t seem to matter at that point.

Winston switched jobs and landed a position in car sales, where he rose to management roles once again. From there, he went to work for TD Auto Finance, a job he left in January to take the position with Delta. Along the way, he earned his GED — the equivalent of a high school diploma — but found his lack of a college education constrained his options.

Finding a path to earning a degree

He began looking at schools, and he knew immediately that a traditional brick-and-mortar experience wouldn’t suit him. He undertook a three-month trial with an online college, but that didn’t work well because he had to log on at a specific time each day, an approach known as synchronous, or real-time, learning.

In late 2014, he found University of Phoenix.

“The flexibility of choosing your classes, the counselors working with you, the due dates — UOPX was more adapted to the working adult,” he says. He was able to earn some of his credits through StraighterLine, which has an educational alliance with the University that allows certain courses to be transferred and put toward a degree. “You give me a deadline, I’m going to do it. I also liked that I was able to speed through.”

Bringing others along for the education journey

Winston’s experience at University of Phoenix led him to recommend the college to friends (if you can call it a “recommendation” when a friend insists that you enroll).

That’s what happened for longtime friend Shaun Rowe, who lives in Houston and is a flight attendant who expects to complete his bachelor’s degree in Business at University of Phoenix this year.

Rowe was on a layover in San Antonio and was telling Winston by phone that he wanted to earn a bachelor’s degree. Rowe says Winston told him, “We’re getting you in school today,” and by the time their call ended, Rowe was in school again.

“If you tell him you want to do something, he makes sure it gets done, regardless of whether you change your mind,” Rowe says, laughing.

Winston is a constant advocate of education, Rowe says. “He’s always spoken about careers and development and making sure you make yourself stand out.”

Serving as alumni chapter president

Inspired by his time as a mentor in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America organization, one of Winston’s goals is to serve on the board of directors for a nonprofit organization. So, when University of Phoenix announced it was looking for alumni to lead the New York/New Jersey alumni chapter, he jumped at the chance. It was a great opportunity to serve in a leadership capacity to prepare him for a nonprofit board role.

He was chosen to be president in a chapter reorganization in January 2019, and one of the first things he did was survey the alumni to learn more about them. The chapter now has more than 700 members in its Facebook group.

The chapter has donated boxed lunches to the Catholic Charities Jersey City Shelter, hosted a homecoming event at the Meadowlands horse racing track, helped with a career fair, and hosted a happy hour networking event, a family and friends barbecue and a bowling networking party. In December, it organized a holiday toy drive.

Winston encourages alumni to get connected through Facebook. Fellow Phoenixes support each other in many ways, including help with professional and career initiatives.

“It’s a great opportunity to network,” says Winston. “A lot of people bring their resumés, and they’re looking for job opportunities, which is great.”

One bit of advice Winston says he passes on to anyone thinking about going back to school is to take action. Take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves, and the sooner the better.

“I wish I had gone back to school sooner,” he says.