Center for Public Service
Student Spotlight: Whitni Hodge
Whitni Hodge was a single mother and factory worker before starting at Kaplan University. She is now a case manager, where she helps foster children return home or helps them find a foster or permanent home. Energetic with a bubbly personality, Whitni loves talking, interacting, and working with people. Before her current position, she didn’t feel like she was living up to her full potential and was bored doing the same thing day after day. Whitni dreamed of having a career where she could feel engaged and useful, to help people and improve their lives. She also wanted to be a good role model to her two young sons.
It took suffering a very bad bout with Graves Disease, an autoimmune disorder, to get Whitni started toward realizing her dream. Since she was not able to work at the factory with her debilitating illness, she decided to go back to school at Kaplan University to finish her degree. Whitni could work around her illness and her children’s schedules with a flexible online learning program. “I initially went to one of the top universities in Florida right after college, more than 15 years ago,” Whitni said. “An online university would have been a much better fit for me back then. I can’t believe the resources we have at our hands. I loved the library and the way I could do research, and Career Services helped me with my resume and papers. I’m so glad I [had] the option of learning at an innovative school like Kaplan University.”
Whitni took the initiative to make sure that she was engaged in her courses and connecting with her classmates. “On every board for all of my classes, I told people a little bit about myself and I invited classmates to connect with me on Facebook. We leaned on each other for help and support. Most of us are now in the industry and we continue to keep in touch.”
Whitni really needed that support in her most dreaded class—Psychology Statistics. Whitni always struggled with math. In fact, when she was first in college many years ago she had to take Psychology Statistics twice—and failed both times. However, she was determined to pass it this time around. She faced her fears head on and made it the very first class she took at Kaplan University. “I wanted to get it out of the way, to prove to myself that I could do it. It was a lot of work. It was really, really hard for me. But my professor was so fantastic. She said, ‘Don’t you worry, we’re going to get you through this.’ And my major disappointment was that I got an 89.98—a B—just a hair away from an A.” Whitni achieved nearly all As in the rest of her classes and graduated with honors. One of her professors even used her final Capstone project as an example for the class.
Whitni’s health improved, and after earning her Bachelor of Science in Psychology degree with an emphasis in applied behavioral analysis she got a job working with the State of Florida as a case manager. When she started, she learned that she was required to participate in the state’s intensive 10-week training course and then take a 3-hour test. “I was so nervous, but Kaplan University prepared me really well. When you go to school online you need to be disciplined. For the first time, I learned how to study. I absorbed the material and could reiterate what I learned. Specifically, for this important test, I had already learned so much of the material in my psychology classes. Don’t get me wrong, it was still hard, but I found myself remembering the material and thinking through the problems the way my professors taught me.”
Whitni passed the test and loves her job helping children, although she realizes that it takes a certain kind of person to deal with some of the issues she encounters. Whitni works at an agency whose client is the Florida Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). She intervenes once children are taken out of their home, and is responsible for developing a case plan for the family and for providing counseling. If applicable, Whitni obtains referrals to bring the children back home or helps find foster care or a permanent replacement home. Every day is different for Whitni—one day she might be in court at a hearing, the next she could be at a site visit for one of her clients.
Healthy and strong, Whitni looks forward to going to work every day—even on days where she has difficult decisions to make regarding a child’s welfare. “I still pinch myself that I had the nerve to pick myself up and go back to school to develop a great career and be a great example to my sons. I tell anyone who listens that if I can do it they can too!”