23 January 2017

In 2013, I got a speeding ticket 2 weeks before I got married.

The policeman took my driver's license because that was the law that year. I had to go to the police station and beg for my license so that I could board the plane for my honeymoon that was quickly approaching. I also had to take an online driver safety course so that the ticket wouldn't go on my driving record. I read the material and aced the test online. The final screen told me I did a great job and that I did better than the majority of first time test takers for this safety course.

That night I told Crystal that I finished the course and passed it with flying colors. Then I thought to myself. Self: If you can ace a piddly ole' safe driving class, Shirley, surely you can finish your bachelor's degree. So. After a decade of the burning shame I felt without this little paper that all my friends, family, and colleagues had, I started researching all sorts of schools, programs, and credit hour costs. And then I decided on NIU. This school had classes that only met 3 times a semester. Some classes never even met in person, it was all online! Each semester seemed to add more options for taking classes online, which was a perfect fit for me.

After I applied and had my transcripts evaluated, I needed 31 credit hours or about 10 classes to earn the degree. I met with my advisor and she set the course for me. And it was a very slow course. One course every semester until 2017. If I took one course at a time we wouldn't need to take a loan out. We could re-work our budgets and dutifully pay off the tuition bill one week before each semester started.

The only complication was my travel schedule for work in 2013 and most of 2014. The first semester was fall of 2013. BVS Orientation was in New Windsor for about 23 days. My work day would be from about 7am to 10pm for the first 3 weeks of the semester. Plus assignments were due in central time, not eastern time. Plus we had a weekend away from dedicated wifi when a paper was due. Plus Crystal and I usually talked most nights from 10-11pm. Somehow I cranked out assignments and readings and discussion posts and a midterm paper and a final research project. I got an A in the course.
Paper topic: Farmworker women enduring assaults in the fields

The next semester was also a little tricky. The class I signed up for had 3 in person classes besides meeting online. The first class meeting was when I was at orientation in Florida. I wrote a kind and begging email asking to be excused due to work obligations. The professor emailed me back and said he didn't communicate over email and preferred that I call him. So, I called him and stated my case. In the background I could hear a bandsaw, hammering, and lots of dudes shouting while the professor was listening to my case. Who was this guy? A psychiatrist as he said he was or just a simple house flipper? He let me finish and said that my absence would be unexcused. I was not allowed to miss face to face classes and it would mean that I could earn as a high as B in the class, but not an A due to his attendance policy. So, I stuck with that class and went on my merry way to Florida for another 3 week orientation, resigned to the fact that I'd probably get a B for the course. 2 hours before my first class was to meet in person, I received a text from NIU that the campus was closed due to an impending snowstorm. No classes would be held on that night! Hallelujah! I cranked out my papers and aced the exams with an A in that class, too.
Paper topic: PTSD in the teenage population

Other paper topics: Copyright infringement in the music industry, Workplace bias, Autonomy for the American housewife, and Offshoring & Outsourcing American HR Departments

Dear reader, I can happily report that I received an A or A+ in all of my remaining courses. I took classes while I was on the road. I took classes while I was pregnant. I did homework on the couch, at the dining room table, in the guestroom, the reading room (which we converted to the nursery), at my desk at work, in the staff lounge, in the library, and even in bed. You're probably guessing that I did this whole thing independently. NOPE. I had the help and support of many in my life. Friends who are good editors, a spouse who reminded me to work on papers far in advance of the due date, supervisors/colleagues who asked about the rigor of my syllabi and to question it appropriately, parents who congratulated me on As as if I was right back in the thick of high school, my faithful advisor who kept me on the graduating path.

 I couldn't have done without you.