Interview with Phylicia Martel Barnum

by Vicki Heisser  |   

Phylicia Martel Barnum is finally living her dream. She is graduating this August from Prince William Sound College (PWSC) with an Associate of Arts in General Studies and will continue her education at University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) where she will pursue a degree in electrical engineering.

Phylicia’s journey hasn’t been easy. In May 2016, when Phylicia graduated from Valdez High School, she had already completed a year of college through the dual enrollment program. Her plan was to complete her second year of college at PWSC and then attend UAF. Unfortunately, her plans got derailed. Phylicia failed out in the fall, and it took her until January 2019 to go back into the classroom and continue her education.

When asked what got her back on track and in school, Phylicia shared: “It has been the support of my parents, my husband, PWSC Academic & Student Affairs Specialist Shannon Stites, and my math instructor Dr. Rusen (Rushi) Meylani.

Initially, when I failed that fall semester, I was disappointed in myself and I decided to take some time off and get some things figured out. During that time, I became a registered pharmacy technician and have worked for 3 years at our local pharmacy, and I got married. Last winter in 2018, I went to see the registrar, Shannon Stites, to see what I needed to do to get back in school. Shannon has always been there for me, encouraging me to go back and finish my degree. So, that is what I am doing now.

With Dr. Meylani’s help, I am going to retake the classes I failed in 2016 to improve my GPA. I feel supported both here at PWSC and in my personal life. I am really excited to be pursuing my education.”  

When asked what advice she would share with people looking to go back to school, Phylicia said, “It is okay if you fail the first time. You can always keep going, it does not matter how old you are. You do not have to have it figured out, what you want to do, when you’re 18.”

When asked what was her advice for those looking toward their future? She said, “You just need to keep going and not give up. Don’t look at your past and don’t be a procrastinator.”