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Walden Magazine // Apr 09, 2014

Andrea Baer: My Story

When my son was born and diagnosed with congenital heart defect (CHD) I was completely alone. We didn’t have a support network, so I got involved in the organization Mended Little Hearts and started creating a local chapter to raise awareness and advocate with state and federal representatives. However, I found myself in a situation that I didn’t really understand because I hadn’t been educated.

I didn’t know anything about the medical terminology, how to advocate, how to talk to our representatives, or even how the government functioned.

How did Walden help you?

A lot of the coursework at Walden involves social change—it’s not just about getting a degree. And that that was important to me because I was looking for more than just a piece of paper. Walden understood what I wanted to do and helped me make it a priority in my life.

They helped me to understand the government, how it works, what it takes to get a bill passed, and how to get funding for research. The other aspect that really helped me was leadership skill training, which taught me how to lead an organization, how to be an inspiration to others, and how to empower people.

Today, I lead this organization, which has 20,000 members. I need to empower those people to make a difference in their communities.

How did you fit studying for a degree into your life?

It was really important that the program had flexibility and gave me freedom. With special-needs children, and the commitment to daily life, it was great that I could arrange my schedule and do homework and my studying at times that were good for me.

How has your degree changed your world?

I feel more confident. I’ve found a lot of strengths I didn’t know I had. I’m definitely more driven and goal oriented than I used to be.

The very first time I ever met a state representative I was petrified because I was just a mom. I didn’t feel like I had anything to offer people who were volunteering for me because I really didn’t know what I was doing myself.

Now, I just had a meeting with the president of the American College of Cardiology and felt completely secure in what I was doing, namely talking on a level with somebody who was a doctor and leading one of the top cardiology associations.

This degree has not just changed my world but so many other people’s worlds around me. It’s helped me empower 40,000 families who are affected by heart defects every year. It’s helped me empower my leaders to become stronger and run better programs.

I’ve also been able to inspire social change from the top level down. I can’t tell you how important that is to the lives of all of the families, not just mine.

Read more personal stories from Walden students and alumni.