While pursuing bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Jonathan Corona immerses himself in campus life
Jonathan Corona came to Auburn for many of the reasons undergraduate students typically do — the beautiful campus, the close-knit Auburn Family atmosphere, and an education from a top public institution.
Now a senior majoring in environmental design, Corona once dreamed of graduating from Auburn and then earning his master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Michigan before embarking on his career. But now he’s found an even better, more cost-effective way of achieving his dreams: Auburn’s Accelerated Bachelor’s/Master’s (ABM) program in community planning.
The ABM program offers Auburn students the opportunity to earn both their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in less time and at less cost than usual by allowing them to count up to 12 credit hours toward both degrees.
Auburn currently offers more than 15 ABM programs with more being developed.
Corona was initially hesitant about earning both degrees from the same school, but after learning more about the ABM program in community planning, he became a believer in the accelerated curriculum and the advantages it offers. He is the second student in Auburn’s College of Architecture, Design and Construction to enter the program.
“Being in the ABM program will definitely help me get into the market faster,” Corona says. “But I’m not worried about having to get my degree at the same school anymore, because I know that with both of these degrees I’ll have the skills to do any job I want or be marketable in any job I want.”
Part of that marketability comes from the graduate courses that Corona has already completed. Compared to his undergraduate courses, the graduate-level courses dive deeper into the issues explored in class. In one of his graduate classes, the undergraduate and graduate students learned the same material, but the graduate students completed a research paper and also collaborated on a group synthesis project.
“I think the undergraduate students get a lot out of what the grad students know and what we discuss in class, which is really helpful because just having scholarly conversations is really good for all of us,” Corona says. “In terms of being a graduate student, it helps us think a little harder and the projects are tougher. I think that has really set me up for success in the future.”
As he envisions it now, that future will include going into airport design as a profession. It’s a natural next step for a young man who grew up around airplanes and was a national officer of Silver Wings, an organization that develops civic leaders through community service and education about national defense, particularly issues related to the Air Force.
“Aviation intrigues me,” he says. “My grandfather was in the Air Force. That’s how my grandmother and grandfather met. I’ve been really infatuated with how planes move around, and that’s another aspect of mobility that interests me is how planes get from place to place.”
He adds, “Plenty of firms do airport design, and some firms are contracted by the military. I think it would be really cool to be contracted by the military to design an air base or a military base.”
Corona came to Auburn in 2012 after graduating from high school in Rome, GA. As one of only two students at Auburn from his high school, he jumped head first into many campus activities in order to meet new people and make his mark on campus. Since coming to Auburn, he became a transfer student orientation leader, helped start the Auburn Mentoring Program, and joined the Auburn University Marching Band as a trombonist – even becoming one of the drum majors for the 2015 season.
“Getting involved with band was probably the best thing I’ve done at the university,” Corona says.
He joined the band as a sophomore in 2013 and witnessed firsthand the Auburn football team’s unexpected run to the BCS Championship game that year, including miracle wins against Georgia and Alabama. As a drum major, he is now one of the few student leaders of the band – an opportunity he relishes.
“We have to work a little harder because we have such a big-time commitment in the fall, but we get all these memories with our friends during games and even marching band practice,” he says.
On top of balancing school and band, Corona also found the time to help launch the Auburn Mentoring Program (AMP), serving as vice president and president during the past few years. “We mentor kids throughout the community from kindergarten through high school,” he says. “The premise of the program is to make sure students are doing well academically, and we also give them a mentor that is a college student that can help them with anything from home life to school.”
Corona mentors two students at Yarbrough Elementary School in Auburn. He and the other AMP leaders are already seeing the fruits of their labor. Several students they mentor have decided to pursue postsecondary education after having initially decided not to do so. AMP has also developed a branch focusing specifically on special needs students – an area near and dear to Corona, who has a special needs sister.
“I thought it would be really cool to have college students that care about these special needs kids that can give them a friend that is someone other than their peer,” he says.
As Corona begins to wrap up his time at Auburn, he is grateful the ABM program is allowing him to earn his master’s degree while saving time and money. However, it’s the intangibles for which he is most thankful.
“I’m most appreciative of the ABM program because I’ve been able to still experience my undergraduate years – getting involved, making friends, and enjoying the college experience, which has created a lot of memories – while getting to experience graduate school.”