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Alumna Kimberly Pizzella Kiesling A’91 ’22 Followed Her Passion Back to Endicott

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Alumna Kimberly Pizzella Kiesling A’91 '22 is leveraging her past academic and professional experience to earn her bachelor's degree with the Van Loan School of Professional Studies, and to achieve a long time goal.
By: Rosemary Poppe

Kimberly Pizzella Kiesling’s A’91 ’22 career to date has been dedicated to the support of others. Since graduating with her Associate Degree in Radio & Television nearly 30 years ago, Kiesling has held roles in strategic planning, development, and fundraising, and successfully ran her own political and nonprofit fundraising company for seven years. She has recently taken on her next great project—investing in her own personal and professional growth by returning to Endicott College to finish her bachelor’s degree in Business Management, through the Van Loan School of Professional Studies.

After completing her associate degree, Kiesling pursued a bachelor’s degree but never completed it, “due to life’s circumstances.” She switched gears to raise three children while building a rewarding career as an entrepreneur. Then, in 2018 after disbanding her nonprofit, Kiesling took on a full-time role in development for Habitat for Humanity. However, due to the spread COVID-19 she was laid off after nearly two years, but, where others might have seen loss, she saw an opportunity to continue her education.

Kiesling insetKiesling resumed her studies this past summer at the Van Loan School and says, “Endicott College is still a wonderful place to learn. When I started the application process to begin my bachelor's degree, I felt like I was coming home. We are never too old to better ourselves and I have found that my life experiences have made my studies so much deeper and richer.”

Given her past entrepreneurial and work experience, she chose to study business management as it is a natural fit. Her interests and passions not only include business, but the mental health field as well. She is co-founder of a nonprofit organization that focuses on trauma and addiction recovery, and her goal is to expand services and reach more people. After graduation, she will work towards a Master's in Rehabilitation Sciences and Mental Health Counseling. “Using my business degree and background, along with my master's degree, I hope to open my own practice.”

The Van Loan School encourages adult learners to take Prior Learning Assessment (PLA), wherein students can obtain college credit for their work and life learning. Reflecting on PLA, Kiesling says, “The process of analyzing my experiences has been nothing short of amazing. I recently redid my resume and I could feel the increase in confidence in my expertise and abilities. This new-found confidence was a direct correlation to writing my learner autobiography and writing for classes.” Something that surprises many students is that returning to school can be fun. “I am thoroughly enjoying learning. I have been a lifelong learner but being able to focus on what makes me curious has been a great experience,” she says.

Kiesling discovered that support comes in many forms. She says, “There has definitely been a learning curve regarding technology and getting back into writing. The Van Loan School has made it easy to catch up regarding technology, and my husband has helped me hone my writing skills by giving me great feedback.” She received some unexpected support as well, and notes, “I needed to register for one general-education course, and the only class available was Pop Culture. My teenagers were a great resource for paper topics, and it made for some really engaging dinner conversations. It's been fun being in college at the same time as some of my children; I'm projected to graduate with my master's at the same time my daughter will be graduating with her bachelor's.”

In our first meeting, Kim shared her experience and goals with me”, says Dr. Maureen Znoj, Director of Undergraduate Programs, Van Loan School of Professional Studies. “I knew immediately that the Van Loan School was the best place for Kim to pursue her Bachelor's degree. It is very rewarding to work with adult learners like Kim who have previous college credit and life experience but need guidance in how to move forward with earning a Bachelor's degree. At the Van Loan School, we get to know our students individually and develop advising plans that maximize transfer credit and prior learning through life experience. Kim is articulate, knowledgeable and self-directed and it has been a pleasure and privilege to work with her.”  

Kiesling says, “The thought of finally achieving my bachelor’s degree feels so exciting because of my struggles to get here. I am bringing a level of vulnerability and authenticity to my classes and I never would have been strong enough to do that when I was younger. I feel like I am finally ‘showing up’ and dedicating myself to becoming better. This is how we use our experiences and life lessons to give back to the world.”

Read more stories like this, watch overview videos of the Van Loan School and PLA, and explore undergraduate programs for adult learners.