Mike Waller always felt that he was just as intelligent as his peers. But studying was a challenge for him, while others seemed to sail through. “My entire life people have told me I ‘wasn’t trying’ or ‘didn’t have what it takes,’” he says. “I started believing them.” After struggling through high school, some community college, and a stint at University of Texas, he decided college wasn’t for him.
Waller joined the U.S. Coast Guard during the Gulf War, but didn’t feel intellectually challenged. After the military he worked as a residential construction manager, but he knew a bachelor’s degree was key to an executive position or to switching fields. He considered community college again, but his wife convinced him he could aim higher. She was right — Waller earned his bachelor's degree in 2012 at SPS as a student in Leadership and Organizational Behavior major. The unique program combines a student cohort, interactive learning and flexible but intensive scheduling to help busy, high achieving professionals complete a degree in two years. “It’s a phenomenal program, which reminded me a little of boot camp,” says Waller. “With the cohort’s support, it’s very difficult to lag behind or drop out.”
Waller also received a referral to Northwestern’s Disability Services, where he was diagnosed with mild dyslexia and attention deficit disorder. “It changed my life — I finally had an answer for my challenges in school. I received medication, occupational therapy, and learning strategies.” Armed with these new tools, and real-world knowledge from his courses, Waller is starting his own real estate company and considering graduate study.