More than 15 years after starting his bachelor’s degree, Jason Coby is graduating with a degree in environmental management in agriculture and natural resources (EMANR). Although Coby encountered a number of obstacles in his educational journey, UF Online provided a way for him to accomplish his goals and become a college graduate.
Coby first set foot on campus at the University of Florida in 2005 on a pre-professional track. His goal was to eventually start a career as an environmental lawyer for the Environmental Protection Agency. For the next five years, Coby experienced a number of challenges related to mental health and substance abuse, and compounded by what he admits was his own lack of discipline. Ultimately, he made the decision to leave UF in 2010.
Following a nine-year hiatus from the university, Coby reconnected with his former advisors, including Susan Curry, senior lecturer in the UF/IFAS soil and water sciences department and Michael Sisk, soil and water sciences academic advisor. Curry remembered Coby and with additional support from his parents and family he was able to return to school.
“It’s taken a lot of people to help me get back to life,” Coby said, recognizing the struggles he has overcome since first starting his undergraduate experience. “I can’t thank my advisors enough. They didn’t give up on me. I wouldn’t be here without them.”
His advisors set up a course plan that would allow him to graduate within two years, but Coby’s life was no longer near the Gainesville campus. Fortunately, the EMANR degree is one of the majors available in UF Online. Coby also minored in agriculture and natural resource law.
“Relocating back to Gainesville really wasn’t an option,” Coby said. “But with UF Online, I have been able to finish what I started while also maintaining my family.”
Coby needed a degree program that offered balance. His life as a student was in addition to a full-time job and being a dad to his 2-year-old daughter. The EMANR program through UF Online combined his love of exploring outdoors with his daughter and his interest in previous courses like agricultural risk management. Being an online student allowed Coby to manage his priorities, and the flexible schedule of an online student allowed him to stay ahead on his assignments.
“When I was on campus before, I was a big procrastinator,” Coby said. “Now I turn my assignments in early and email my teachers for any advice, critiques or pointers. I make sure I don’t get overwhelmed.” And since starting as a UF Online student, Coby has received 11 straight A grades in his courses.
Through his online classes, Coby has made connections with other UF students. In some of his courses, the students will create a group message where students can discuss class topics and ask questions.
“It doesn’t really feel like an online situation. It’s kind of like, if I was there [in Gainesville], I could sit in and I would see the same thing,” Coby said.
Living in Boca Raton, Florida, Coby feels the reach of Gator Nation. When he spends his Sundays visiting the sea turtle rescue and aquarium with his daughter, he looks forward to the “Go Gators spirit” among Gator fans as they discuss the football game and other events that week.
“It’s definitely a bond between people who went to UF,” Coby said. “We all have a connection.”
Now, Coby plans to take the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) with plans to obtain a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree. Although Coby’s goals may have changed slightly since starting in 2005, he still hopes to find an environmentally-focused career. He has learned to take advantage of the opportunities placed in his life and make the most of most of these experiences.
“I am proud to be a Florida Gator. This is something I have worked for very long and very hard to get to,” Coby said. “I am forever grateful for the opportunity available through UF Online, because without it, I wouldn’t be a college graduate.”