Article courtesy of Courtney Pomeroy, News-Post Staff
Cortney Smith didn't always know where she wanted higher education to take her, but once she figured out her path, she sprinted to the finish line.
Smith, 24, graduated from Frederick High School in 2005 and enrolled in Hood College intending to study biology. She soon changed her mind.
"I decided that wasn't where my passion was," she said.
Thinking she'd try nursing, she transferred to Frederick Community College.
But she began an internship at Fort Detrick in 2007 and discovered government work was more her speed, so she left FCC with her associate degree and enrolled at the Frederick campus of Mount St. Mary's University. There, she earned her bachelor's degree and her Master of Business Administration, all while working full time at Fort Detrick, where as a contract specialist, she manages and sets up contracts for research labs.
"It was pretty crazy, but it was manageable," Smith said.
It was definitely not the average college experience.
"While everyone was out Friday and Saturday nights, I was writing papers," she said.
She earned her master's with just one year of night courses. The program usually takes two years, according to Joe Lebherz, director of the Mount St. Mary's Center for Professional and Continuing Studies in Frederick.
"To complete it in one year is just pretty extraordinary," he said. "But that's Cortney. She's very dedicated and committed."
Smith said she took 16 classes throughout the course of the year. The accelerated program allows two seven-week rotations inside a normal semester, and she took two classes per rotation in the spring, summer and fall.
The program was actually easier than traditional courses, she said.
She could recall information learned in previous classes more efficiently because, in some cases, they had ended just a few weeks earlier.
Smith wonders if she missed out on what she calls the typical college experience -- moving away and living among her peers -- but continuing to live with her family has been good for her academically, she said.
"It's been great to have the support of my family and friends," Smith said. "They have been able to push me along the way."
Her success was due in part to the fact that she never took time off after earning her bachelor's degree, Lebherz said.
"She had the studying down. She knew how to do it," he said. "She was in the groove."
You might think Smith is done with school for now, but she's not so sure.
"There's always time if I want to go back," she said. "I'm keeping my options open. I don't ever want to limit myself to one field."