Missouri State University
D.J. Zaruba

D.J. Zaruba

Winding road to college placed a student right where he belongs

A life as a touring musician prepared him for higher education.

After high school, DJ Zaruba made a deal with his parents. He could pursue a dream of being a professional musician, but only if he agreed to keep the possibility of going to college on the table.

“I was on the road nine months out of the year until I was 24 or 25,” D.J. said. “I made a promise to my parents that if I was 26 or 27 and wasn’t making a certain amount of money playing music, that I would go back to school.

“That’s how I ended up here at Missouri State.”

Computer lab

Experience on his side

D.J., a 29-year-old native of Virginia, is a non-traditional student who said he’s been able to take the life experiences he gained on the music touring road and apply them in college.

His college grades have actually been better than his high school grades, he said, noting that the support he’s received from instructors and fellow students at Missouri State has been a great benefit.

“I can figure out how to switch gears, fit in, and make something happen.”

An entertainment management major in the College of Business, he plans to switch to computer information systems soon after enjoying a CIS class he took last year.

He’s started to discover how he belongs on campus, and said he feels confident he is fitting in in Springfield.

“I don’t feel like anyone treats me as a non-traditional student at all,” he said. “I’m just another student. That’s one of the things I like most about this school. Teachers and students treat me the same, and I feel like I get the same attention and the same support.

“It’s been a really good thing for me.”

Managing school and change

D.J. had to place a higher priority on his classwork to achieve solid grades.

He was working over 75 hours per week at two full-time jobs, and had to give up one of those positions to better manage his time.

One of those full-time jobs was in networking IT where he worked on hooking up data networks.

But change is nothing new for D.J., who said it’s just harder to be surprised at age 29.

“I’ve seen a lot of things and had to deal with a lot of people,” he said. “I’ve always had to teach myself how to adapt, so when something new comes up, I’m not surprised.

“I can figure out how to switch gears, fit in, and make something happen.”