After more than 20 years, Danita Sani returned to Wright State to pursue a bachelor’s degree in human resource management. (Photo by Erin Pence)
She was studying electrical engineering at Wright State University in the mid-1990s when she left to raise a family and start a career.
Now she’s back.
Danita Sani, formerly Danita Barnes, is among the first wave of students in the Wright State Business Degree Completion Program.
The novel initiative is aimed at Miami Valley residents between the ages of 25 and 45 who already have completed a minimum of 60 semester credit hours — with some credit hours in business — and want to return to college to complete a bachelor’s degree in business.
Sani was accepted to the Raj Soin College of Business prior to turning 45 and majors in human resource management, which prepares students for careers that support organizations with employee development programs.
Shu Schiller, Ph.D., professor of information systems and associate dean of the College of Business, said that Sani is a great example of how students can benefit from the Business Degree Completion Program.
“She is determined to finish and takes two or three courses each term while working full time,” said Schiller. “At work, she is involved with HR duties, so her study is relevant and can be applied right away.”
Sani grew up in Dayton, the youngest of seven children. Her late father, Curtis Barnes Sr., a Wright State graduate who served in the U.S. Air Force, was a retired art professor at Sinclair Community College and an artist whose paintings have been displayed locally and around the country.
After graduating in 1991 from Patterson Career Center, during which time she interned with General Motors Corp., Sani enrolled at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University in Greensboro, North Carolina, to study electrical engineering.
In 1996, she transferred to Wright State to continue her studies but a year later left school to start raising a family. She later procured a position as a customer service representative at Victoria’s Secret’s call center in Kettering, which led to a 25-year career that continues to this day.
In 2015, Sani’s sister Denise Barnes, a Wright State alumna who had always urged Sani to return to college for her degree, died of cancer.
“When she passed, I felt a push,” Sani said.
So she returned to Wright State, this time to pursue a bachelor’s degree in human resource management.
“Not only doing it for me but for her too,” said Sani, who also hopes to inspire her 24-year-old son, Myles Harbison, to return to college.
“I just want to prove to him and others out there it’s never too late to go back to school,” she said. “I may not have done things the conventional way, but I am not ashamed to say I am 48 and proud of everything I have accomplished and look forward to the next stages/chapters of my life.”
Sani, who carries a 3.28 grade point average, said she is more focused and determined to get her degree now than she was in her early college days. And she is grateful for the support she receives at Wright State.
“I love the professors. Every professor I’ve had has been awesome — friendly, helpful, open-door policy. I make sure they get to know me,” she said. “And if I need the help, I know it’s there.”
Funding for the Business Degree Completion Program comes from the AES Ohio Foundation, formerly The Dayton Power and Light Foundation. It supports scholarships, schedule planning, tutoring and public transportation expenses.
A recent analysis of U.S. Census data shows between 25,000 and 30,000 residents of the Dayton Metropolitan Statistical Area are between the ages of 25 and 45 and have at least 50% of the credits needed for a bachelor’s degree.
The gap between the average annual income of individuals with some college experience but no degree and those with a bachelor’s degree in business exceeds $25,000. For an individual who returns to college and earns a bachelor’s degree in business, the expected total income increase over 30 years is nearly $560,000.
Sani works at Victoria’s Secret as a seasonal human resources specialist, helping recruit new workers.
“I love when I offer a job to someone and they are super excited,” she said. “You really are changing somebody’s life.”
Sani said the company offers advancement opportunities and influenced her to pursue human resource management as a major. She hopes to stay with the company and that her degree helps advance her career there.
But she also plans to pursue a Master of Business Administration then later study and complete her career goal in the field of diversity, equity and inclusion.
“I love helping others and making sure everyone is accepted and given an equal opportunity in the workforce,” she said. “I want to be their voice.”