Rydal resident wins Nontraditional Student of Year Award at Reinhardt

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Even though he’s had a successful career in law enforcement, Lt. Mark Anderson still had a nagging regret hanging over his head — he had never completed his bachelor’s degree.

So in August 2017, the commander of the Oak Grove Precinct for the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office decided to do something about it and enrolled at Reinhardt University in Waleska. 

“Basically, I felt like it was unfinished business,” he said. “I have had a successful career, but getting an education opens doors and gives one a broader perspective with which to meet life’s challenges. Sheriff Frank Reynolds is a believer in education and has been very supportive of sheriff’s office employees who want to pursue undergraduate or advanced degrees, and he encouraged me to go get it done.”

Going back to school full time at age 46 while also having a wife and kids and a demanding job in management was a daunting task for the Rydal resident.

“It has definitely been a challenge, and there is no way I could have done it without the support of my family, friends and co-workers,” he said. “When you take on a lot of responsibilities like that, you have to sacrifice some things. Unfortunately, sometimes that means less time to spend with the people that care about and depend on you. I’m blessed to have had the understanding and support.”

But as hard as the journey’s been, Anderson, 47, excelled at his studies and established himself as a leader at Reinhardt, which earned him the 2019 Nontraditional Student of the Year Award at the college’s annual Evening of Honors last month.  

“As far as the award goes, receiving it was a total surprise, and I was humbled by and thankful for the recognition,” he said. “As I understand it, someone had to make nominations for that, and I do not know who nominated me. But I can say it is an example of one of those little life lessons we learn from time to time; if you work hard and put a lot of effort into something, there is usually someone quietly watching and paying attention. It was nice to be recognized for that.”

But according to one of his instructors, there were quite a few “someones” quietly watching him. 

“Mark was recommended for this award by several of his instructors and was noted by each as a top-quality student,” said Diane Cagle, assistant professor of business and coordinator of the online Bachelor of Business Administration program. “Mark was selected because of his leadership both in and out of the classroom. He maintained a 4.0 GPA while carrying a full class load and working full time.”  

Anderson, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1991 to 1997, completed his unfinished business May 3 when he graduated from Reinhardt with a Bachelor of Organizational Management and Leadership degree.

“There is certainly a sense of accomplishment,” he said, noting he plans to begin a master’s program in the fall. “I put it off for so long, having put other priorities ahead of getting a degree. But I am so glad I did it.”   

The new graduate had nothing but positive things to say about his time at Reinhardt. 

“I have attended five different colleges and universities over the past 25 years, taking courses here and there,” he said. “I have never felt so welcomed and supported as a student as I was at Reinhardt University. The administrators, faculty and staff were always there for me when I needed anything so that lessened the burdens that go along with being a nontraditional student with a family and full-time job. I am thankful for all they did for me.”

Anderson — who has a wife and three sons ages 6, 12, and 14 — has been in law enforcement 21 years, two years at the Georgia Department of Transportation when it had a law enforcement division and 19 years with Cherokee County. 

A few other Bartow County residents also were recognized during Reinhardt’s honors program. 

Rosa Gasca of Cartersville won the Political Science department award.  

Named Reinhardt University Academic Scholars for having a cumulative GPA of 3.9 or higher were seniors Joshua Carter of White, Kelli Skokowski of Taylorsville and Carlos Molina and Gasca of Cartersville.

The Hugh Peterson Jr. Academic Scholars for having a cumulative GPA of 3.6 to 3.89 were seniors Joshua Adam Vavases of Cartersville and Anderson and juniors Kendall Byrd of Adairsville and Hope Elrod of Cartersville.