After graduating from high school, Kayla Romano had no long-term plans to continue her education. Three years and two scholarships later, she is a first-generation college graduate with a bachelor’s degree.
“I wanted to go into a law enforcement degree program, but you had to be 18 years old; I was still 17,” she said. “I thought I’d get some credits and an associate degree under my belt. I had no intention of going any further with it.”
Instead, Romano received the Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation Scholarship, transferred from the College of Western Idaho (CWI) to Boise State University, earned a Presidential Transfer scholarship and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Professional Studies in May 2023.
“I got it [the Cunningham Foundation Scholarship] my first semester at CWI but it also worked at Boise State,” she said. “It was extremely helpful. I graduated college with only about $3,000 in student loans.”
Romano attended the law enforcement academy at CWI and Boise State simultaneously before transferring and landing a second scholarship to offset her tuition costs. She also worked full-time as an administrative assistant for a realty company.
“Online gives me the freedom to be able to bounce around on my readings and take the time I need while still having a deadline to push me to be done,” she said. “It gives me that freedom of not being somewhere at a certain time. I was paying for everything on my own, so I didn’t have that financial stability.”
Going through college was especially difficult for Romano, whose father, Dan, was diagnosed with colon cancer two months after she enrolled. He went into remission and then was recently re-diagnosed.
“It was a lot,” she said. “My dad is my biggest supporter. My first semester of college at CWI, I did in-person classes. After that, I made the transition to online because I saw that when I owned my business and then worked for someone else full-time, online worked super well with my work schedule.”
Embracing New Ideas
Romano is from Star, Idaho, and pursuing a career in law enforcement sparked her interest during her senior year of high school.
“I had a family member I was close to who was incarcerated for a period of time,” she said. “I saw after they were released how it benefited them, and they came out a much better person. Some people don’t turn around. Seeing the ones that do gave me the idea that I wanted to help other people turn their lives around.”
The interdisciplinary professional studies program turned out to be an ideal fit for Romano to expand her horizons while transitioning fully into the bachelor’s degree program.
“I went into the program not necessarily having a full understanding of what the degree was,” she said. “I learned more about it. It’s a good degree because it’s like combining several majors into one. I have knowledge in different areas.”
The interdisciplinary professional studies program is designed with transfer students in mind. The fully online degree gives students the ability to use their existing college credits and prior learning experience to create an individualized degree plan. Students can create a customizable educational pathway and apply targeted workforce- and industry-relevant skill sets and add career-focused certificates, minors and emphasis areas to their degree outcomes.
Romano’s favorite course was Perspective Taking, taught by Michelle Bennett.
“I have raved to so many people at Boise State and to my friends about how much this course changed my life,” she said. ” That course pushed me to be fully into this program and helped me in my personal life, as well. It gave me a sense of self-awareness.”
The course was especially applicable to Romano. She applied for a job as a dispatcher to get some law enforcement experience before taking it.
“I wanted to get my feet in the water,” she said. “I started the process of being selected, but they went with an applicant with more experience. It was heartbreaking. I had given a lot to it. I started taking that course as I didn’t get that job, and it taught me how to take something negative and turn it into a positive.”
Romano also greatly benefited from taking a conflict management course while in the program and applied the lessons learned to situations she’d experienced in the workplace.
“When you have conflicts with people in the workspace or have different opinions than other people, you get more where you can see eye to eye and let others know how you feel, instead of reacting in a way where they start to become defensive, which turns into something even worse,” she said.
Only the Beginning
Because Romano graduated from college early, she has to wait until later this year to meet the 21-year-old age requirement to be a police officer in Idaho.
“I want to become a law enforcement officer and eventually move into a position of investigations and person crimes,” she said. “I felt connected to help others.”
With this desire to help others, Romano took a volunteer position at Faces of Hope, a domestic violence advocate center. Her time there has been eye-opening and helped her find her true calling.
Now that Romano has a bachelor’s degree under her belt, she believes it will give her a competitive advantage when applying for positions in her field.
“You don’t necessarily need a degree to be a police officer but when moving up into a higher position, it’s highly preferred,” she said. “It shows how much dedication you put into a position and how much you want it.”
Although her life has taken some drastic turns over the course of the last three years, Romano is eager to see her hard work pay dividends.
“The interdisciplinary professional studies program is all about creative learning and thinking,” she said. “It’s good going into it with an open mind and an open concept of what you are going to learn. I tell everyone that I graduated high school in 2020 with no intention of going to college. Here I am, graduating a year early.”
Learn More About Interdisciplinary Professional Studies
Want to learn more about the interdisciplinary professional studies program? Join us for an online information session or contact a student success coach.