I work at a university, but I don’t have a college degree. Not yet, anyway.
I have been a college student for all of my adult life. When I first enrolled at UMKC in 1995, I did so as a vocal music performance major. I lasted two semesters before my lack of piano skills and realization that I had no idea what I would do as a career with such a degree made me switch focus to computer science.
When I got a full-time job on campus, I took classes as I could, on weekends or during my lunch hours. Some I took online, before online classes were en vogue. With the help of Mr. Awesome, I racked up several semesters worth of computer science classes before I hit another stumbling block – I’m not good at math. Just thinking about that sort of problem-solving makes me hyperventilate. So with most of the computer classes under my belt, but just barely having passed Algebra I and needing four more advanced math classes to fulfill the degree requirement, I changed majors for a third time.
This time, I went not with a career-focused degree – I already had a good full-time job that was leading to a career – but instead picked a program of study that matched my interests – English Literature. Semester after semester, year after year, I chipped away at the degree requirements one by one. As an employee, I receive tuition assistance, but only for 6 credit hours per semester, so I never took more than that at a time.
I took classes I loved, and learned so much about books and authors I appreciate and admire. I had some inspiring instructors in the English program, and worked on interesting and challenging projects. I even got a grant to visit Washington, D.C. to present my work related to Charles Dickens and Hard Times.
As the list of requirements dwindled down, I finally could see the end of the road and over the last two years have been solidly focused on getting this thing done.
Then I hit a couple more road blocks.
First, the Arts and Sciences program requires three years of the same foreign language. If I’d taken three years of one language in high school, I would only need two. But stupid me – I took one year of German and two years of French. Quel stupide du moi. So I needed three years of college French to graduate.
I took the first semester as an evening class in 2006 at Maple Woods Community College. By time I really got my stuff together and enrolled in second year French, five years had passed and I barely remembered anything. But I pressed on, and with the help of an understanding teacher, I took second-year French during the evenings in Fall 2012. My very last class, then, for a degree, was third-year French. Unfortunately, it wasn’t offered during a time that I could take it in Spring 2013, and while I could have tried to test out of the class (took the final as a pass/fail) I was not confident enough in my skills to put it all on the line like that. So this semester, Fall 2013, I was lucky enough to enroll in a section that met three days a week over my lunch break.
I took my final exam today. I am confident that I passed, and can finally say that J’adore le langue français, mais il est très difficile pour moi. Je voudrais continuer à apprendre, cependant. D’ailleurs…
Now the second road block.
To fulfill a lab-science course, I took geology at Maple Woods in 2008. I couldn’t find a course at UMKC that met during my required times, and this one met after work close to my house. I transferred the credit to UMKC and went on my merry way. Then I learned about something called the UMKC Residency Requirement, which states that a student’s last 30 consecutive credit hours must come from UMKC. Since transferring the lab-sciences course, my last 29 consecutive credits have been from UMKC. I am one consecutive credit hour short of fulfilling that requirement. Mind you – I am not short of UMKC credit hours at all – far from it. I probably have enough accumulated UMKC credits to graduate twice. But my last 30 consecutive did not come from UMKC. Just my last 29.
So I have written a heartfelt appeal to the committee that reviews such matters, and have been assured that they will take the matter under advisement in the next four to six weeks.
Good gravy again.
Commencement – that is, the whole thing where graduates walk in robes and hats and all that – is this Friday. Therefore, while I have all the required courses out of the way, while I have taken all the necessary exams, while I have completed the capstone course for my major signifying that I am indeed a scholar of English Literature, I am not sure if I will legitimately graduate for four to six weeks.
But you know what? I don’t care.
Because I’m going to walk in the commencement ceremony anyway.
I bought the cap and gown and tassel today (which, by the way, was yet another road block, as they were all out of my size and I had to go short on the robe – no heels for me). And on Friday afternoon, instead of going to lunch, or class, or to get coffee, I am going to put on that regalia and walk in my graduation.
It’s been almost 20 years. A lot has happened since I first started college…
Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. The DVD was invented. Michael Jordan played baseball, then had a repeat of the 3-peat, then retired.
The iPod, iPhone, Furby, hybrid car, and Viagra were all invented.
Google and YouTube and Facebook and Twitter all exploded all over our lives.
The World Trade Center towers were there, then they weren’t, and they were replaced with a new normal.
They cloned animals. The human genome was sequenced.
We had pets come and go. We had cars come and go. We bought a house. We got married. We traveled. We gained and lost weight. We pursued interests, then pursued different interests, then pursued different interests.
Lots of life and love and laughter happened in the last nearly-20 years.
And on Friday, I am graduating.
It’s never too late, people. It’s never, ever too late.