Achieved & Acknowledged

Patti McCanna

Academic Advisor and Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) Coordinator, School of Adult Learning

Stephanie Rybandt

Bachelor of general studies in business administration, class of 2013
Founder and baker, Fannie Schmoe’s Bakery

The Partnership

As a teacher and advisor in the School of Adult Learning, Patti works with students like Stephanie who are returning to school to complete a bachelor's degree, sometimes after long absences. Together, they worked out a plan for Stephanie's academic success, and she has since taken her learning and newfound confidence to new heights. Here's a glimpse of their relationship and how Stephanie's life has changed since meeting Patti.

Stephanie: I knew I wanted to return to school and complete my degree but I didn’t know where I wanted to go and the thought of heading back to the conventional setting wasn’t very appealing. I knew of North Park University and had always heard good things about it. The School of Adult Learning program sounded like exactly what I was looking for and I applied.

After I enrolled, I was scheduled to attend orientation and Patti was the instructor. I remember feeling a little more at ease after that night: she didn’t promise it would be easy, but it would be absolutely doable. I learned Patti would be my advisor that night and I was excited about that.

Patti: I really enjoy helping students reach their goals—to earn a degree, to master a skill, to earn credit for an experience that they have had in their life—and my position lets me do that. I was a returning adult student when I went back to school in the early 1980’s to earn my BA, and the support that I received made a huge difference. Paying that forward is rewarding.

Stephanie: Patti has a way of revealing to you an accomplishment that you have achieved but never acknowledged. As adult students we are constantly thinking of what else has to be done, be it at work, at home, our next class etc. You don’t always stop and look and what the last week, month or even year has looked like and realize that you have done some incredible things.

One day I sat with Patti and told her I had started a small business. I just began talking about what I was doing not really realizing that starting a business while working full time and going to school was pretty incredible. After she listened for a while, she mentioned this could be a Prior Learning Assessment project. I had been so focused on the little things I was doing, bit by bit (plus homework and my day job), that I hadn’t realized how much I had done to actually start a business. She suggested that I just start writing it down. I could submit to her everything I had written and then together we could piece it into a PLA project. I started writing and came up with nearly 60 pages! I had no idea that would happen.

Patti: Stephanie was always positive and came in wanting to do her best. From the beginning she was engaged in the material and with her fellow classmates.

She was very open about what was happening in her work life as well as her personal life. While this happens regularly with my advisees, there was just something about the conversations with Stephanie that went a little deeper and showed that she really was committed to earning the degree.

Stephanie: I have said that, without Patti, I would not have completed my degree. As focused and determined as I was when I started, I still had this doubt deep down about finishing the coursework and actually getting the business degree. I had been in and out of college for 10 years at that point, my efforts always thwarted by life and other circumstances. Patti can encourage you without pushing too hard. Her manner is so calming and honest that anything seems conquerable after you’ve talked it out with Patti.

A great advisor/teacher is one that has truly invested some part of themselves into their students and honestly wants to help and see them succeed. And that is Patti. She often says that part of her job is to be a cheerleader. It seems so simple, but it’s so important. Some days I could walk into her office because I just needed some reassuring—some cheerleading. She knew that I needed it and was more than willing to take some time for me. That extra time and energy that she gives to her students is what makes her great.

Patti: Our students inspire me regularly. They are working, taking care of families, balancing volunteer activities and church obligations, while also taking classes that are offered in a seven-week format and require a significant amount of time outside the classroom.

Stephanie: When I started at North Park I was working as an account executive for an international freight forwarder. Midway through the SAL program, I accepted a position as the international gateway manager for a national transportation company, and managed and operated the international department for the Chicago branch of the company. While working I partnered with my brother and we started Fannie Schmoe’s Bakery. I would work all day, and then bake and run the business at night and on the weekends. We were working out of a rented kitchen and selling our bakery items at farmers markets and to a local coffee shop.

In June of this year we were awarded a contract to take over an existing café space in the Harwood Heights Eisenhower Public Library. On July 1, 2013, after 10 years in the freight forwarding industry I quit my corporate job to pursue my dream of being my own boss and running my business full time.

On August 1, Fannie Schmoe’s Bakery opened its doors! Our café is a full service bakery and coffee shop with a catering menu and wholesale operation. We have grown immensely; we are currently the exclusive bakery for three coffee houses in Chicago, and have a growing portfolio of corporate accounts and catering customers.

My experience at North Park gave me many things. What I learned in the SAL program was applicable in my daily work and life. I now understand business, faith, and integrity (and how it all links together in me) in new and clear way. That knowledge has given me confidence and courage. I would not have had the courage or the knowledge to confidently start a business without the tools North Park gave me.

Next Steps

Read more from the Winter 2014 North Parker.

Two people holding boxes from a bakery.