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DCE graduate finishes with commitment

mfitzpatrick2Mike Fitzpatrick ‘09 learned a thing or two about tenacity and perseverance during his 21-year pursuit of a Linfield degree. Juggling demands of career and family, he took breaks in his schooling along the way, but always returned to Linfield to continue his education. Fitzpatrick took his final class over the summer, and earned a bachelor of science degree in the social and behavioral sciences, with concentrations in human resource management and sociology.

“I took classes off and on — more off than on,” he said with a laugh. “I continued because it was something I had started and I wanted to finish. I recognized that in business and in life, the degree was critical.”

Fitzpatrick began taking Linfield classes in 1988 at Lower Columbia College in Longview, Wash., through the Division of Continuing Education, just three miles down the road from his rural home in Silverlake. “If you blink, you’ve missed it,” said Fitzpatrick of the small community where he lives with his wife, his golden retriever, a couple of cats and various deer and elk on eight wooded acres.

He continued his education while building a 25-year career at the Longview Fibre manufacturing plant, commuting to evening and weekend classes in Longview, Portland, McMinnville and Astoria. School took a backseat in the mid-90s when he took a promotion within the company. Those years were spent absorbed in another sort of education as he learned the manufacturing and operations process. In 2000, he was appointed director of human resource management, supervising a staff of seven and a department of 35 employees, and dealing with a myriad of labor and management issues. Last year, Fitzpatrick established Fitzpatrick and Associates Inc., a human resource and labor relations consulting business. Thanks to his Linfield education, he had completed a variety of HR management courses, and had many years of hands-on experience in the field.

After many years of balancing work, school and family, Fitzpatrick was thrilled when Linfield began offering online classes in 2000. The flexibility meant that he would be able to complete his degree and graduate. “When the internet came along, it was great for me because of where I live. There was no travel time involved, and I could plan the syllabus around my schedule. Plus, the chat sessions and online discussions made it a very robust system.”

Fitzpatrick began “the big push” to finish his degree three years ago. He wrote his senior research thesis focusing on the labor movement in the U.S. and his work was selected to be bound and included in the Linfield library.

Fitzpatrick said his Linfield education has expanded more than just his practical knowledge of the social sciences.

“It has helped me appreciate the world we live in,” he said. “I have a better understanding of the environment and what our roles ought to be to make the world a better place.”

Fitzpatrick exemplifies many of the qualities that distinguish a Linfield graduate, according to Kate Bemis, dean of Linfield’s Division of Continuing Education. “His story is remarkable in many ways, but at the same time, so characteristic of the dedication we see in the DCE students,” she said.

His advice to others? “Get your degree sooner rather than later. It’s a basic requirement and expectation that people in business and professional life have. It’s been a great experience. I encourage people to never give up.”