MEET OUR GRADUATES: Online Classmates Stay in Sync to Graduate Together

Cynthia Bertrand, Abigail Guzman and Mai Provost

Trio of B.P.S. graduates bonded over class projects and diversity.

As students in RIC’s Bachelor of Professional Studies (B.P.S.) program – the college’s 100 percent online degree completion program – Cynthia Bertrand, Abigail Guzman and Mai Provost (pictured from left to right above) didn’t anticipate becoming fast friends through a computer screen.

But that’s what happened after they were paired together for a group project in a corporate ethics course, one of the first classes students take in the B.P.S.’ Organizational Leadership concentration. And now, they plan to celebrate together as 2024 RIC graduates.

“During our journey, we would validate each other’s stress and frustrations,” says Guzman, an event technology manager for Streamline Events, Inc. “It was great to connect with people who took the same courses and got a good feel for each other.”

Provost, an administrative assistant for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, and Bertrand, an administrative assistant for Amica Insurance, recall having frequent group chats to divvy up coursework.

“We each had our own little jobs,” Bertrand says, with a laugh. “One of us would be more familiar with Google docs, while another was more skilled with grammar and PowerPoint presentations. We’d all make it work together.”

The ladies say that one of the noteworthy attributes of attaining a B.P.S. degree is the Certificate of Undergraduate Studies in Workplace Diversity that’s attached to it.  

Bertrand, whose job involves prepping training and tuition assistance programs for new hires, says through her B.P.S. courses she’s gained more confidence working with diverse groups.

“I don’t have tunnel vision anymore,” she says. “I’m more open-minded. I’ve acquired a different perspective about where people are coming from.”  

Provost agrees, noting that many corporations nationally are adding diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) officers to their ranks and requiring employees to undergo DEI training.

“It’s nice to know that I’m ahead of the curve with this training,” Provost says. “It’s a big conversation piece these days.”

For Guzman, who crisscrosses the country managing events for a woman-run, minority-owned company, the DEI courses served as a refresher.

“No matter how much you learn, there’s always more to learn about diversity and managing people,” she says. “Things progress and culture is always changing.”

Earning a bachelor’s degree represents a major personal change for Guzman, as she becomes the first in her family to graduate.  

“Getting my degree is really like all my family getting a degree,” she says Guzman, a Bridgeport, Connecticut native.

“I was nervous that I was going to start this degree program, get in over my head and not finish again,” she says. Guzman attended but did not complete her studies at Johnson & Wales University. “But the structure of the B.P.S program really worked well for me.”

The program’s structure was ideal for Bertrand, as well. As a mother of five with a full-time job, time management is key.

“Because B.P.S. courses are online, I saved so much travel time,” she says, “and my children felt better because the program reduced the amount of time I was away from them. It was so flexible.”

Provost says her B.P.S. degree will help diminish the “imposter syndrome” she experiences on her job, which requires her to write regulatory documents that help the Mashantucket Tribal Nation abide by state, federal and tribal laws.

“If I was trying to get the job I have today, I would never qualify without a college degree,” she says of the position she’s held for more than two decades. “Everybody assumes I already have my degree. A little piece of me feels like I’ve been living a lie without it.”  

After graduation, the ladies say they would love to stay in touch with each other but acknowledge that may be a tough proposition.

“Perhaps we can still text each other and maybe go on an occasional friend or coffee date,” Guzman says. “To be honest, as busy adults it’s hard to maintain friendships, but we will definitely try.”