How one grad finished his degree—on time—in the eye of Hurricane Irma

Jason Merzlak
Jason Merzlak
Photo credit: Bianca Valentim Photography

DEGREE EARNED: BS in Business Administration

HOW LONG IT TOOK: 2 years

LOCATION: Pompano Beach, Florida

IN THE EYE OF THE STORM: We were looking at the weather reports, and they were going back and forth trying to figure out where Irma was going to hit. Figuring out the plans for my husband and I and our two dogs to evacuate was challenging, but always in the back of my mind was graduation. It was so close. Even with the hurricane, I said, “I have to finish this.”

TAKING SHELTER: One of the nurse practitioners where I was working at the time invited us to his house where he still had electricity. I had my laptop, so I reached out to my professors and advisors and just went from there to finish what I needed to do.

WORKING WITH OTHERS: The business capstone was dependent on working with four classmates. My group members were on the west coast of Florida and in California, Iowa, and Texas. We had planned to finish the project October 2, not knowing the hurricane was coming. Once we learned about Irma, I coordinated the group so we could be proactive and delegated the pieces we needed to complete for the project.

A BIG ASSIST FROM WALDEN…: The support from the staff and my academic advisor, Kelsey Schlichting-Johnson, was so important. And the students who were in my group were the most supportive group I’ve ever worked with in my life. They understood the situation I was in and the severity—but they also knew my determination and that I wasn’t giving up on my goal. Without them, I wouldn’t have finished on time.

…AND ANOTHER FROM ABOVE: My determination and my brother in heaven were directing the whole thing. He’s led my life in a direction I never thought was possible. He absolutely gave me strength during the whole process.

LIFE AFTER WALDEN: I now run operations for the cardiology unit at Holy Cross Hospital. Walden taught me a broad number of things I use running the office. All the courses I took at Walden have made me a better manager. I was also recently accepted into a local Master of Business Administration program. My long-term goal is to be a hospital administrator or senior vice president.

— As told to Kristin Hanson

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