Russell is First Graduate of CMU-LSTC Partnership

Linn native & resident balances family, work & school

Zach Russell is the first to admit, the last two years haven't been easy. Balancing the demands of family, a full-time job, and a heavy load of college classes would put a strain on anyone.

When the pressures were at their peak, the Linn native and resident would remember the last words his late grandfather told him: "Don't try. Just do."

russell120913.jpgAnd do he has done. Russell this month becomes the first person to earn a bachelor's degree from the partnership between Linn State Technical College and Central Methodist University. His CMU degree is the Bachelor of Applied Science in Management.

It's been more than 11 years since Russell earned his associate's degree in design/drafting from LSTC. He has a good job as a computer aided design (CAD) manager for the State of Missouri Office of Administration in Jefferson City, where he has worked for seven years. He and his wife, Kristy, along with nine-year-old daughter Bella, have a good life in Linn.

Yet Russell could see that the path to better positions often require a bachelor's degree, and he definitely wants a higher level of managerial responsibilities.

"I had been looking at going back (to college) for a while, and had actually checked out a couple of other colleges," Russell said. "Then, I read in the local paper about the new agreement between LSTC and Central Methodist.

"So I went to an information meeting" that CMU held on the Linn State campus, "and I met with Aimee Sage (CMU director of admission for its College of Graduate and Extended Studies), and we got the ball rolling."

The transition from LSTC to CMU was "very easy," Russell said. The transfer of credit hours (even going back to his Linn High School dual credit classes), all paperwork and billing, and related matters went without a hitch. "Aimee was on me if I forgot something," he laughed.

Not that there weren't sacrifices, but the Russell family had been down this path before. Kristy went back to college a few years ago, "so we had a process" for adapting to the challenges of family, work and college. Russell also found CMU's eight-week sessions, two classes per session, to his liking.

Another challenge was the necessity of taking some coursework online. CMU does offer some classes "live" at LSTC, but there was no way to complete degree requirements without taking online classes.

"After my initial fear (about online classes), I actually liked it better," Russell said. "I could study on my own time rather than sticking to a regular schedule. It was great being able to pick my own time to study."

The convenience of his online classes was matched by the convenience of his "live" classes at LSTC. "I could come home from work, see the family, eat dinner and go to class. Plus, the small class size" – something Russell appreciated both at LSTC and from CMU – "always helps."

For Russell, being the first-ever graduate of the LSTC-CMU program means less to him than "the pride in getting my bachelor's degree," he said. "I set a goal of completing the program in two years, and it's been exactly two years."

The challenges of the CMU bachelor's degree completion program at LSTC aren't for everyone, Russell admits. But he won't hesitate to recommend it to others.

"If anyone asks, I'll tell them they should go for it," Russell said. "It's hard enough these days to find a good job without an education. I'd tell them 'Just call Aimee!'

"I'd tell someone, 'If you can find the time, and if you can find the financing, you should do it,'" Russell added.

It sounds like something his grandfather would have said.

(For more information about Central Methodist University bachelor's degree completion programs through Linn State, contact Aimee Sage at 660-248-6651 or by e-mail at


Posted December 9, 2013