Nicholas Zazal, 26, is the latest GetEducated.com $1,000 "Excellence in Online Education" scholarship winner.
He has been awarded a free $1,000 check to use toward his online college studies at the University of Illinois online.
Zazal works at the University of Illinois campus in Urbana-Champaign, but is earning his master's degree from the school's online program—even though the same degree is offered on campus, minutes from his office.
The reason? As with many online college students, Zazal's work schedule doesn't allow him to attend classes on his school's timetable. Instead, he has opted for the flexibility offered by distance learning.
The Northlake, Illinois native is earning straight A's in his master of recreation, sport and tourism online degree program—despite working up to 75 hours per week as the events director at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.
"My work schedule is completely at the mercy of what’s scheduled into the building," says Zazal. "Some weeks it's 25-hour weeks, some are 75-hour weeks, depending on how many shows we have." Since his job entails coordinating "all the backstage and event logistics for all the tours, everything from hotels and parking for artists to audio and lighting needs," Zazal must be available at odd hours, and can't commit to a traditional classroom-based program.
Zazal has worked for Krannert since graduating from the University of Illinois in 2004 with a bachelor of fine arts degree in stage management. His goal is to move into sports and entertainment venue management, but "with no experience in pro sports besides being a lifelong armchair head coach," Zazal decided he needed a sports management degree to qualify him for such a position.
Zazal's online degree program has used some of the same teachers who teach the on-campus degree program, he says, as well as other, non-Illinois instructors, including one from Yale. "My program in recreation, sport and tourism has given me the opportunity to learn about marketing, event management, finance, human resources and beyond with a focus on the sports industry," says Zazal. "I can now combine professional skills with personal passion."
Zazal expects to graduate in February 2010—just in time for his summer wedding.
GetEducated offers several free online college scholarships each year. The competitive awards are based on grade point average, a written essay, and financial need.
If you wish to compete for next year's online scholarship, visit our scholarship page for application information.
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