PWSC: Good morning, Judy. Thanks for joining me, and congratulations on graduating this May. In fact, you and your son are both graduating from Prince William Sound College. Is that right?
Judy: Yes, we are and we are both excited.
PWSC: So what are you getting your degree in?
Judy: I'm getting an Associate of Arts.
PWSC: What made you want to go back to school?
Judy: Finishing my degree is something I've been wanting to do for a long time. I started back in 1985 after I graduated from high school and life has just gotten in the way in one way or another. It was time to finish.
PWSC: That is great. What do you think are some of the advantages will be in having your degree?
Judy: I'm looking for it to open up more job positions for me. I've found that without a degree some of the positions I'm interested in just are not available. It's also a big sense of accomplishment. I finally did it.
PWSC: That's something to be so proud of for sure. So how did you end up selecting Prince William Sound College?
Judy: I live here and I've taken classes here throughout the twenty-three years I've been in Valdez. It is a great school and was the right place for me to finish.
PWSC: Which college classes are you taking right now?
Judy: I am taking Alaska Native Cultures, Art Appreciation, Introduction to Logic, and Writing and the Professions.
PWSC: What obstacles have you faced while finishing your degree?
Judy: Time management is a big one. I have two part-time jobs at the moment, two children, and just life in general. Getting all that to fit into a day can be a big challenge.
PWSC: So how are you balancing work, family, and school?
Judy: I've had to learn to let things go a little bit, relax with the situation. The house isn't as clean and the meals aren't as elaborate as they were in the past. I have very little free time and I’ve had to say no to volunteer opportunities.
PWSC: How has the college staff helped and supported you during this time?
Judy: They have been wonderful. It's more like a family here than a college. I’ve lived here in town and have known many of the staff and students for a lot of years, so that might contribute to it. Heidi has really been there to help me figure out what to do next and which classes to take. Shannon has been able to answer any questions that I have had. Kerra, she's always a sunny face at the front office and is able to get all your financial business taken care of really well. The instructors have been encouraging and willing to work with me when I needed a little extra help.
PWSC: Oh that's great. What would you say has been your most rewarding academic experience?
Judy: It's hard to put down just one particular thing that's been rewarding. Just finishing a degree, finally doing it is wonderful. I’m also getting better grades than I thought I would and that is very satisfying. It's been a long time since I've been in school full-time and I was really doubtful of how well I would be able to perform.
PWSC: That's fantastic. So you’d say that going back to school has it been worth it?
Judy: It has definitely been worth it, but it has been a challenge. The coursework has been challenging for me in some areas. Just learning what I need to know to do the coursework has been taxing. The technology has expanded by leaps and bounds since I was in college last. Then, there were a few computers here and there but they certainly weren't being carried around in everyone’s backpacks.
Using Blackboard and learning how to cite papers are two skills I’ve had to learn. I have four different classes and different citation styles that I'm required to use in them. I’ve had to learn the citation styles in order to be able to complete the assignments.
I actually came back many years ago and when I met with the counselor I was told that most of my credits had expired and I would basically have to start from scratch. At that point I mentally just threw up my hands. It was just a dead dream. Then after years of trying to find a good position in the workplace and being turned away from jobs because I did not have a degree, I decided that even if I had to start from scratch, I was getting a degree. I came back into the college and talked with Heidi. It turned out that my credits had been reinstated through a policy change.
I really want to encourage anyone who started a degree many years ago and never finished to try again. The situation may have changed for you as well. Please be encouraged to not give up on getting a degree, to not give up on the benefits that it can hold for you, and the sense of accomplishment that comes with having a degree in hand.