Wine and Spirits Industry Leader Puts the Spirit in Online Learning

Written byZachary Schleter

“The people—the very talented people—who work for UL Lafayette were looking out for my better interest to make sure that I got the degree that I came back for. I made As in every one of my classes when I returned because of the support I had.” 

Damon Trahan
Graduation Year
General Studies, Business Concentration
Scott, La.

Family comes first. 

For many online students, that mantra always rings true.  

And for Damon Trahan, it’s no different.  

He attended school off and on in the nine years following his graduation from high school, wanting to earn his degree all along.  

“I started in pre-dentistry, then switched to business and then music and then mass communication before settling into sociology,” he says. “I just really like being in school, but unfortunately I wasn’t really on a path to finishing school.”

When he got married and decided to start a family, Trahan knew it was time to put his bachelor’s degree on pause and start working full time. He grew a successful sales career in the wine and spirits industry, advancing all the way to state-level general manager for a national distributor in 2022.  

By then, earning his degree was more a personal priority than a career necessity. He wanted to see his degree through to completion.

“I was like, ‘You know, the kids are in high school kind of doing their own thing now, let me see how much I have left to finish,’” he says. “I reached out to UL Lafayette, and it turned out I only needed a few more classes that I could take online. I had just started a new job, why not start school at the same time?”

At the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Fall 2023 Commencement, Trahan proudly walked across the stage to accept his Bachelor of General Studies degree.

Tying the Loose Ends

Trahan has always had a passion for learning.  

As he built his career, he remained invested in his own professional development.

He currently holds a WSET Level 2 Award. The certification, granted by the Wine and Spirit Education Trust, demonstrates his knowledge of wine and spirit production. That knowledge comes in handy as he travels the state, selling to restaurants and grocery stores.  

When Trahan returned to school, he made the most of the five classes that stood between him and his degree, taking classes that both interested him and proved valuable in his career.  

One such class was CMCN 414 — Media Management. In it, students explore the structure and management of media organizations, covering everything from research and sales to human resources.

“The class was a good step back in understanding how to manage people who report to you,” Trahan says. “Everyone comes to the table with something different. As a manager, part of my job is to figure out how to get the best out of my team and enable them with the tools they need to do their best work. There were some tactics I learned in CMCN 414 that I was able to use with the sales reps working for me at the time.”

As a passionate student, he also had the chance to nerd out and expand his horizons. His favorite class was geology.

“I love nature and I really liked just learning something new that was outside of what I do for a living,” he says.  

Learning Online, Not Alone

For Trahan, learning online never meant learning alone. This time back in school, he felt more supported and more confident than ever.  

When Trahan last attended college, everything was on campus. When he returned, he could easily access everything online — from writing support to course materials. This was crucial since his schedule wouldn’t have afforded him the ability to come to campus.

“I was able to download the VoiceThread app, where instructors would record and upload their lectures,” he says. “I drive a lot for my job, so I’d listen to the recordings while driving. That allowed some reinforcement of the material that I was reading.”  

More important than the technology and tools, he asserts, were the University staff members supporting him.

“I think if I had been just kind of on a desert island, it would have been a lot tougher,” he says. “The people — the very talented people — who work for UL Lafayette were looking out for my better interest to make sure that I got the degree that I came back for.”

Those efforts to make sure Trahan succeeded included, at minimum, meetings with his academic advisor each semester to discuss his class schedule and check-in calls from the UL Lafayette Online student support team.

Trahan took it slow and steady, completing one class at a time. And that mentality, in combination with the support he received, paid off.

“I made As in every one of my classes when I returned because of the support I had," he asserts. “There was one moment where there was a class that I couldn’t get into for whatever reason. After just a couple of emails, it was opened for me, and I was able to get in.”

“I would also get check-in calls from the online enrollment team, just to test the waters and see how everything was going with my classes. That sort of support and knowing that I had a voice and that if I had an issue, they would work with me on it, that was great.”

The Next Career Steps

For now, Trahan is continuing in his current role, but that doesn’t mean he’s not thinking about the next steps. With the goal of becoming a leader at the national level, he hopes to continue moving up in his sales and operations career.

With a degree on his resume, he’ll now face one less obstacle in the job search process.  

“One barrier I used to have was that any time I applied for a job and the application asked if I had a degree, I’d get rejected without an interview,” he says. “I do have aspirations to continue in my career, and removing those barriers is definitely going to open up new roads for me.”

And soon, Trahan will have another Ragin’ Cajun in his family. The Lafayette native’s oldest son, a senior in high school, will start in Fall 2024. Trahan is confident he’ll be in good hands.

“We toured together about a month ago,” he says. “I feel like I’m seeing the University in a whole new light. I know what can be accomplished here. I’m just excited for his journey.”

His advice to students considering finishing their degrees? Just do it. There’s nothing stopping you.

“There’s always enough time for school if you prioritize it,” he says. “Make the leap, make it a priority, and engage with your classmates and instructors.” 

Finish what you started. Use your existing college credits to earn your bachelor's degree online from UL Lafayette.

Request information