This semester’s UC Clermont Commencement Speaker at the recent ceremony held at The Oasis in Loveland was Cassandra Booe, a Health Information Technologies and Medical Billing and Coding student at UC Clermont. What makes Cassandra Booe unique is that she is an online student from New Mexico, and she flew to Cincinnati just to speak at our commencement. She also has an inspiring story that takes a slightly different route from many college students now.
Cassandra Booe graduated in 2006 and has been seeking to earn her degree since. She first started going to school for Physical Therapy while trying to earn her Bachelor’s Degree in Science. However, many obstacles presented themselves—health-related issues like taking care of her family for example, as well as program changes—and these eventually brought her plans to an abrupt halt.
Ms. Booe has lived in Texas for most of her life, but in 2015 her husband received a job after he graduated which happened to be in New Mexico. She was then forced to choose between waiting a year to return to school in person or taking an online program. After conducting a thorough search of schools that are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management (CAHIIM), she found UC. Booe said that this accreditation is important, and she did not want to attend a school that didn’t have this distinction: “This accreditation is important because it allows students who graduate from the school to sit in for national certification exams, giving them additional credentials that make them much more competitive in the job market.” She also chose UC because everyone at the school she spoke with was helpful and knew what she was talking about with regarding CAHIIM accreditation.
Ms. Booe had never been a distance learning student before and had no idea what to expect from the experience of going to a school almost 1,500 miles away. Fortunately for Booe, she enjoyed the flexibility that was offered. She has been self-sufficient since the age of seventeen and knows the stress of needing to pay bills. “Being a distance learning student has allowed me to maintain a full-time job and still be able to pursue my degree.” Booe doesn’t believe that online courses are harder than on-campus courses, but she did mention that this particular program “has absolutely been the most challenging accomplishment of my college life, but I am so incredibly happy that I did it.”
For Ms. Booe, one thing she expected was that she was going to go through this program alone, and would not really get to know anyone. However, since she’s completed the program, she’s been grateful for the involvement of her professors and advisors. “I am so thankful for UC and for my advisor, Professor Foltz,” one person who has been extensively involved in Booe’s education, and a person who’s had a significant impact on her. Also, because the classes have
stressed the importance of students communicating with one another, she has gotten to know many of her classmates in the program as well.
For the last four years, Cassandra Booe has been a medical biller and has loved it. She said, “I had been thinking for a while that I would like to find a career that could build on my medical billing experience where I could advance and make a career out of it.” After finding the perfect majors and college, however, there were still many personal obstacles she faced. Every semester at UC Clermont, Booe has had something major occur in her life, making it hard for her to keep up with her classes. “I’ve always had a lot going on,” she said.
For example, a few years ago she was taking care of her grandmother, who later passed away. During her first semester taking classes with UC Clermont, the grandfather who raised her since she was five was put into hospice and eventually passed. This caused Booe to have to travel a great deal, and even try to complete school work during car rides.
During the second semester she spent with UC Clermont, she was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, which resulted in her juggling doctor’s appointments, school work, and her job. In her third semester, Booe experienced the stress of buying her first house with her husband. This semester started out with her husband losing his job due to layoffs at his company—and, she lost another grandfather this past month as well. This all coincided with class work that was becoming intense; for example, she was given a poster project in one class that was intended for a competition in the 2017 OHIMA Annual Meeting for the Student Research Showcase. As it turned out, her poster entry won first place at the annual meeting, and it proved to her that she could make it through just about anything. During this hectic time she worked a full-time job while simultaneously completing online courses with UC Clermont, all while maintaining a 4.0 GPA.
Through it all, Ms. Booe has had a very supportive husband and family. She lived with her grandparents since the age of five and met her husband in high school. The high school sweethearts have been married for almost five years. She doesn’t have any children yet, but her parents are hinting that they want some grandkids and says “As of right now, it’s just me, my husband, and our two dogs in our little family.”
When Ms. Booe was asked to speak at Clermont’s graduation, she was “absolutely blown away.” She hadn’t planned on attending this semester’s graduation because she has several more classes at UC next year and she lives so far away, but she couldn’t turn down the offer of speaking at the commencement. “I never would have thought that a school would want a student who’s never been on campus to speak at their graduation.” In fact, she didn’t believe the school at first when they asked her. But, now that this milestone has passed, she plans on continuing her education with UC Clifton and earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Information Management as a
distance learning student. After graduation she said, “I would love to get started in this field by becoming a remote medical coder, and in time—with experience and education—I hope to advance in Health Information and make a successful career out of it.” She hopes that in five years she’ll be a valuable medical coder, and in ten years to have enough experience to take on a management position. She added, “I also better have some kids by that time, too!”
When Cassandra arrived on campus, she said she was struck by how pretty and full of green it is—understandable, since she comes from a desert climate. She and her husband Kyle walked around the campus and had multiple interviews with staff and faculty on the day of graduation.
Cassandra believes that motivation is a mindset. There have been many times that she has put her needs second, but when it was finally her time, she succeeded with a 4.0 GPA and a valuable degree. Her advice to students who need motivation in their lives is: “Even if you think you can’t handle it or you can’t do it all, you can.” Her personal motivation comes from her never giving up; in fact, she believes that challenges should even be appreciated.
In her address to the graduates, she discussed the many challenges she faced on her journey to earn her
degree. She spoke about how life is like a rollercoaster ride and how “your ride makes you unique from others.” She also said that “life doesn’t always happen in a straight line, and that it doesn’t matter how old someone is when they graduate: “Your challenges don’t define you. What you do with your challenges is what defines you.” She then took the time to thank her professors for “making me feel a part of this school when I [was]miles away.”
Congratulations to Ms. Booe, and to all our recent graduations—for overcoming your own challenges, and for making the staff and faculty at UC Clermont proud. No doubt great things are just around the corner!