Student Spotlight: Robert Brickhouse '22 shows that persistence is instrumental
When Robert Brickhouse first came to Villanova as a teenager in 1992, he never would have guessed that he’d still be working toward his degree 20 years later. When the realities of life got in the way, Robert had to step back from his education, but has remained determined to earn his degree and is on track to do so next May.
“I actually graduated high school in 1992 and out of high school, I received a full scholarship to come to Villanova,” Robert said recently. “But unfortunately, at the same time, I went through some changes at home and it was an unstable time in my life. At the time, I didn’t realize the resources that were available.”
Robert left Villanova and paid his way through community college, before accepting an opportunity to join the work force. He works in project management, handling medical education and administration efforts, while also helping to raise his family and pursue his passion as a music and choir director. In the back of his mind, Robert always knew he wanted to return to Villanova.
“In 2012, I did some online research and learned that my employer offered tuition reimbursement. I applied to Villanova and was accepted. Classes were going great and then my mother passed away in 2013. With the birth of another child right after that, I just never had the time to make it work.”
Robert’s journey was not unlike many other adults pursuing a degree. Family, work, and other interests posed obstacles, but Robert kept the goal of a degree in mind until last year.
“The when the pandemic hit,” he said, “We ended up working from home consistently, so while I was home, I was flipping through brochures and things and saw Villanova.” Robert knew that unlike his first stint at school, he was prepared to excel at Villanova, saying, “I was doing great in 2012. It wasn’t my grades. Life happens and I never got back to it.”
With many of the benefits offered by the College of Professional Studies now in place, Robert Brickhouse was in a position to reach his goals.
“I reached out and spoke with the advising team, who let me know about programs that weren’t in place before. The formation of CPS, and things like the grade amnesty program, have been heaven sent for me, as if it was created specifically for my situation.” The Academic Bankruptcy Policy that Robert mentioned allows students who are returning to Villanova after a long absence to apply for the removal of unsatisfactory grades from their grade point average. It is one of many resources that Robert has used to launch himself back onto the path to graduation.
“For me, the benefits that the counselors and advisors have campaigned for have really paid off,” he said. “The advisors understand that these kinds of things happen to some students. I’m a good example of a student who can use (those resources).”
Robert praised the CPS advising team for helping him reach his goals, knowing that they are equally helpful to other students on very different educational journeys.
“I really appreciate how the advising team taps into each student and listens to each unique story, to tailor your path to your journey. There’s no ‘cookie cutter’ anything.”
While CPS and the advising team put Robert on the right path, his own work in the classroom has been commendable. He has a 4.0 GPA since his return to Villanova in 2012 and, with his community college credits transferred, he is on track to graduate this upcoming May.
“I couldn’t be happier for the opportunity to make this a reality for me,” he stated. Earning his degree will open up doors for Robert in his career, yet he’s keen to appreciate the accomplishment itself as well.
“Walking across the stage (at Commencement) will impact me in so many ways. It’s an emotional accomplishment. From feeling like a failure in 1992 and being able to walk across campus now with a different sense of myself. I have a sense of belonging here. It changed the game for me.”
Aside from the achievement of his degree, Robert is very grateful for the lessons he has learned in his return to the classroom. He points to his Leadership courses and their impact, not just on his work as a project manager, but in his time spent as a music director for a church and community choirs and ensembles.
“Music has always been my passion. Leadership courses (within CPS) are impacting every area of my life. As a project manager, it has given me tools to collaborate with colleagues and supervisors, plus improving my communication skills,” Robert confirmed.
“As a music director, understanding how people think and operate, helps me know the kind of leader that will get people to not necessarily be followed but to make an impact on people in a positive way. If nothing else, learning to communicate clearly has been the overarching theme of my leadership classes.”
He particularly pointed to the Leadership Symposium this fall as one of his favorite experiences within CPS. The weekend long course is designed to offer an engaging and interactive learning experience.
“That entire experience was great,” Robert explained. “It felt like it was set up with the student in mind.”
Robert has taken the lessons he’s learned in the classroom about leadership and communication and applied them to every aspect of his life, including being a father to his two children.
"As weird as it sounds, I do believe my classes (at CPS) have made me a better father and a better communicator at home. I question myself when I do something or before I make a decision.”
His dedication to not only earning his degree, but doing so with terrific grades and a positive attitude should inspire his children, as well as the many adults facing similar obstacles in their lives. Robert Brickhouse is on track to graduate because of his persistence in reaching his goal and, since coming to CPS in 2020, his openness to accept the help and guidance he was offered.
“The biggest takeaway for me is that there is help available,” Robert stressed.
“Don’t think that your obstacle is the end. There are alternatives. It’s not a ‘pie in the sky’ message that says you’ll just get whatever you want, but there are resources and options if you reach out.”