Encino Student Didn’t Let the Pandemic Stop Her
The current pandemic has no doubt taken its toll on people who work in service industries, including those employed at gyms and wellness centers that have closed due to regional influxes in COVID-19 cases.
Tiffany Pisa, 25, a single mother living in Los Angeles, was one of the seemingly countless people affected by these closings when she lost her job at LA Fitness last year. But, rather than surrendering to the usual anxiety and frustration one feels from sudden unemployment, she quickly found opportunity in her situation.
“I wanted to do something different with my career, and this was a good time to do it,” she said. “I wanted to have a career where I don’t have to continually worry about finding or keeping a job. So, I felt like it was a perfect time to further and complete my education.”
Thanks to positive references from friends who graduated from the school, Tiffany quickly set her sights on attending UEI College in Encino. Her goal: to earn a diploma in Medical Billing and Insurance Coding (MBIC).
She started classes late last summer, both in-person and virtual, and she’s currently on track to graduate in May. Most recently, Tiffany earned UEI College Student of the Month honors in December 2020.
“I’m really committed to medical billing as a career, not just a job,” she said. “That’s motivated me to approach classes with a high level of commitment and dedication.”
Seeking a Stable Career
From the time she graduated from high school, Tiffany’s held a variety of jobs while considering a number of careers. As a child, she was interested in becoming a pediatrician but, inspired by hard-of-hearing classmates, she instead strived toward learning American Sign Language (ASL) after high school.
Giving birth to her daughter, however, forced her to put these aspirations on hold. Rather than focus on building a career, Tiffany worked jobs as a party planner, a Target cashier, and a front-desk employee at LA Fitness.
While these jobs didn’t necessarily provide her with the long-term, career-based training she craved, Tiffany said they were important in coaxing her out of her shell.
“I’ve actually had tons of experience in customer service. I’m actually really good at it,” she said. “I used to be really shy, but being a party planner and working at other customer service-related jobs have helped me build my communication and social skills. I’m actually really good with people.”
It’s this focus on customer service, as well as experience with payments and accounts, that helped lead her toward a career in medical billing and insurance coding.
“I like being at the front desk — being able to be the go-to person billing patients, looking up their insurance, and having all the answers,” she said.
The Pandemic Didn’t Stop Her
When her friends recommended she look into attending UEI College, Tiffany said they didn’t just talk highly of the Medical Billing and Insurance Coding program. They also spoke glowingly of Lisa Lipkins, master instructor of the program in UEI Encino.
It wasn’t long before Tiffany began to see Ms. Lipkins in a similar light.
“Ms. Lipkins is just an awesome professional,” she said. “Her personality is really outgoing. She doesn’t give up on anyone. She really doesn’t. Ms. Lipkins wants to make sure we’re always successful, and I just love her for that.”
Through this great instruction, however, Tiffany has had to adjust to attending classes virtually. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the Medical Billing and Insurance Coding program has gone online, with on-campus classes occurring just once or twice a week.
The transition to online classes hasn’t always been ideal, Tiffany said, but she feels the level of instruction she’s been getting from Lisa Lipkins has remained at a high level.
“As an instructor at UEI College, compliance is an important part of medical billing and insurance coding,” Lisa said. “I was quite impressed by Tiffany’s ability to complete all work assigned to her on time, if not before it was due. Her research was always thorough and comprehensive, and her fact-checking always accurate.”
Lisa has also been impressed with Tiffany’s leadership in the classroom.
“Tiffany was nominated for the mentorship program because she functioned well as a team leader,” she said. “Communication is one of the most relevant tools in making sure the students are aware of the importance of quality education, and she demonstrates it well with a positive attitude.”
A Culture of Support at UEI
Tiffany anticipates she’ll have finished up all her required classes in March, at which time she looks forward to gaining experience through an externship that could possibly turn into a full-time job … and a long-term career.
This is a goal she has for herself, and well as for her 4-year-old daughter.
“I’m actually not doing this for my own career, but I’m doing it for our future,” Tiffany said. “It’s an experience I’ve shared with my daughter, for sure. When she sees me getting all my stuff done for school, she’s picking up on that.”
And, throughout her education thus far, Tiffany said she’s never felt alone. UEI College has been a critical partner along the way, even outside the classroom.
“At UEI, you’re not alone. Everyone is there to help you out,” she said. “From the financial department, to career services and on through, they give you everything you need to succeed.”
Kevin Acosta, Senior Admissions Representative at UEI Encino, said that much of Tiffany’s success also comes from her own personal drive.
“From the initial conversation I had with Tiffany over a phone call, I sensed a young woman seeking greatness – not only for herself, but for her daughter,” he said. “Her determination for a great career through education is not only a message that is inspiring, it is motivational and greatly needed for those who are lost in the darkness this pandemic has brought.”
Encino Campus President Jackie Azizyan agrees.
“We thrive when we see our students going above and beyond for their future,” she said. “They are not only our students, but they become our family. I am so beyond proud of Tiffany for continuously pushing against obstacles and finding her way to the top. Students like her are the reason I continue to do what I do—to see them walking, getting their diploma and coming back to tell us about their new careers continues to be an unmatched feeling.”
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