Though he may be older than the typical college kid, University of Nebraska at Omaha non-traditional student Mark Frailey knows it’s never too late to go back to school and pursue a new career.
Frailey, a bachelor of general studies student double majoring in Native American and religious studies at UNO, originally pursued a career at Fed Ex after graduating with an associate’s degree from Western Nebraska Community College in his 20’s.
During his time at Fed Ex, Frailey was able to continue his college education by applying his work experience towards the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree.
“After a certain amount of time – I think four years – I was eligible to start their management program, so that’s what I did,” Frailey said. “I just sort of worked my way up the Fed Ex chain.”
After leaving Fed Ex and moving to Lincoln to be closer to his daughter, Frailey became interested in going back to school, which was something his parents had always encouraged him to do.
“My dad had always wanted me to go to school, and since my parents are getting older, I decided it was a good opportunity for me to go back and continue my education for a bachelor’s degree,” Frailey said. “I’m really kind of doing it for my mom and my dad.”
Frailey originally planned to major in education but was discouraged to pursue the career path because of his age. He changed his plan and started classes after speaking with members of the bachelor of general studies department.
“They were more than accommodating to me,” Frailey said. “I started off just by taking one class just to ease into college life and eventually worked my way up to the status of a full-time student.”
After working on his degree for two and a half years at UNO, Frailey is set to graduate in May.
He encourages others interested in going back to school to not let their fear of being a non-traditional student interfere with their goals.
“At first I was kind of afraid to come back to school because there’s quite an age difference between myself and first, second, third-year students,” Frailey said. “Once I got into the particular area of study that I was actually interested in, I found that there was a whole lot of non-traditional students that are kind of in the same boat as me.”
Frailey stresses the importance of searching for scholarships and working hard to accomplish the goal of graduating. Hard work is what Frailey is known for, accord-ing to Associate Professor of Religious Studies Brady DeSanti.
“His work ethic is unparalleled,” DeSanti said. “He’s really dedicated and he’s a student that will always go the extra mile. He just has a really diligent work ethic, and it’s paid off.”
DeSanti said he finds Frailey’s accomplishment of coming back to school “admirable” and has benefited his education.
“He’s got more experience outside the confines of the university, so he has worked in a professional role for many years,” DeSanti said. “He’s been faced with complex experiences and difficulties … and has navigated those experiences quite well.”
As for his accomplishment of graduating in May, Frailey said earning his degree “has been a lot of hard work,” but he’s “enjoyed every minute of it.”
“Up until a few years ago, I didn’t think I’d ever end up going back to school,” Frailey said. “When you’re young, you always promise your-self that you’re going to go back to school. In the back of your mind, you’re just pretty sure that’s never going to happen. For me, it’s a pretty big accomplishment.”
Frailey plans to take some time off school before applying to graduate school. He is debating between a religious studies or Native American studies program.