Community College

“You just think you can’t do it then you do it.” (Success Stories Series)

(Reprinted from Heartland Community College, July 2011 “Alumni Spotlight” – Normal, Illinois)

Bett Atkins

Name: Bet Atkins
Class: Heartland Class of 2005
Degree: Associate’s in Arts

Interviewer: Colleen Reynolds, Director of Alumni Relations and Outreach

 

Colleen: The alumni spotlight shines this time on an alum who’s a single mom of seven kids who turned to Heartland at age 45 to start a new career, one that recently led to an award for her compassion.

Bet: Hi. I’m Bet Atkins. I graduated from Heartland Community College in 2005 with an Associate in Arts degree.

Colleen: I know that you’ve gone on and received your nursing degree as well.

Bet: I have. I graduated from Mennonite College of Nursing at Illinois State University in 2007. I’m currently employed at Advocate Bromenn in the I.M.C.U. I’m a day nurse and love my job.

Colleen: I.M.C.U., what does that stand for?

Bet: It stands for the Intermediate Care Unit. Originally, I was hired to work the step-down unit, which is one south, right outside the ICU. Last year, they merged my unit with the medical unit and made us one big unit. We were all together up on the fifth floor now.

Colleen: I’m going to take you back to the beginning of your academic career and ask you what led you to Heartland?

Bet: I knew that there were going to be some changes in my life and I knew that I would need to care of my children. I was a single, or I figured I was headed to be a single mom and I was. I started during the summer of 2003 and took two classes, then bumped up to full-time and took everything that I could take so I could graduate.

Colleen: So had you been out of the classroom for awhile?

Bet: Oh lord! I have been out of the classroom since really when I graduated from high school all those years ago in 1976. I took some college courses, got married, was a stay at home mom for a long time. I managed a bookstore in Peoria for awhile, and I loved that job. I just figured that it wasn’t the direction I wanted to go. I had the opportunity to take care of my grandmother when she was dying in 1979 and that cemented the idea that I wanted to be a nurse. I figured one day I woke up and I thought I’m going to be 45 this year and if I don’t do it now, I’m not ever going to do it and that at least I wanted to try. If I can’t do it and manage the kids and take care of everything else, then okay but I’ll have known I had given it my best shot. I just started those classes and taking those classes. I had great support, had a lot of fun. I had great professors. I loved Edie Wallace, Ali (Abu-Amr), Steve Rummel. Just a lot of encouragement from the professors here and a lot of encouragement from my church family.

Colleen: What else about your experience here helped you succeed and get that Associates degree and then move on?

Bet: I think most of it was probably self-esteem. Heartland gave me a big boost in my self-esteem. You just think you can’t do it then you do it. Then you think okay I can do this and I can move on to the next step. It was just like I could get tutoring if I wanted it. I used Project RISE at times. Heartland had the daycare which there were times I needed those services. Like I said before, I worked part-time in the Financial Aid office as a student worker and met lifelong friends there. There are people that I love there that really encouraged me and wanted to see me achieve my goals. It’s easier when you have someone from the back pushing you. It really is.

Colleen: It sounds like you felt supported as a whole person, not just in the classroom.

Bet: I really did. I met people here that I love and would consider that they would be lifelong friends of mine. There were other students my age that were middle aged who were doing career changes. You tend to stick together and help eachother. You’re not eighteen or nineteen, just out of high school. You have full-time responsibilities as parents. Some of them worked outside jobs so going to school had to be the priority.

Colleen: So you went on and obtained your nursing degree. Where did that lead you?

Bet: It led me to Advocate Bromenn. I love my job. It’s fabulous. I can work three days a week, twelve hour shifts. I can pick up extra shifts if I want. It gives me time to be a mom which is a priority. When I leave work, 99% of the time I feel like I’ve accomplished something, that I have helped someone else. I feel like I had so many people help me as a single mom going to college, raising kids and a granddaughter that it’s kind of like payback and paying it forward that you go and take care of people. You know that they’re not at their best and you do what you can to make their day easier.

Colleen: Well then you must be very good at what you do because you received a compassion award in the first quarter of this year. Tell me about what that meant to you to receive that kind of an award or recognition of what you do everyday.

Bet: It was really nice, but I’d be just as happy to going about my own business at work. It’s very nice to be recognized by families. It was a family who thought that I had gone above and beyond taking care of their loved one. That’s amazing that they took the time to write the company and the hospital recognized me. I’m very appreciative of that but that’s not why I do what I do. I do it because I love people and I want things to be good for people. I want their outcomes to be good. I want to be able to set an example to newer nurses and my peers. What we do is very hard both physically and emotionally. You can get through the day by making someone’s life better just by being kind and loving. I think that to do what we do as nurses we have to genuinely love other people or you couldn’t do it day after day.

Colleen: Is there anything that you learned here at Heartland that has translated to what you do everyday, either academically or just about people?

Bet: I think all of my classes at Heartland prepared me for the next step at Mennonite. They gave me a good base foundation to build on the skills and knowledge base that I learned at Heartland. I think that just being back in a diverse population that was a lot of fun. You get to hear ideas and think about things that you have not thought about in a long time. I want to be as open minded as possible about everything. What I learned here helped me to be a better nurse. I loved my time here.

Colleen: You almost get a little misty-eyed when you think about it.

Bet: I actually do. For me, it was a really hard time in my life. Heartland gave me something to focus on, just class after class after class. It kept me from sitting there thinking my life is terrible. If you have something to focus on and if you have a goal and if you do your best to attain that goal, it might take you a little bit longer, you might be 45 years old in class with a bunch of 18 year olds, they were all great.  They accepted me. It was like they were other children of mine. I felt that it was such a good thing for me. It was the best move I could make. Everybody was just so supportive. It’s just such a great cultural experience here. There’s things to do and outside of classroom events. We’re lucky we have Heartland.

Colleen: Is there anything else you would like to say to students attending Heartland today?

Bet: I’m not anybody special. I’m just Bet. If I can do it, you can do it. I occassionally run into single moms who were floundering andI tell them my Heartland story. I went to Heartland when I was 45 and I had kids at home. If I can do it, you can do it because there is nothing so special about me. It was just determination and wanting to be able to provide a good life for my kids. It was my kids who were my driving force. I want them to have a good life and Heartland enabled me to move to the next step which was at Mennonite and then be able to get my job. I just can’t imagine doing anything else with my life.

Colleen: Bet Atkins, we think there’s something special about you. We’re happy to have you in our latest spotlight. Good luck and continued future success.

Bet: Thank you very much, Colleen.

“Inspired by life …” (Success Stories Series)

(Reprinted from Cape Fear Community College, Alumni Spotlight, 10.28.10)

CFCC Alumnus Chelsie Ravenell models some of his latest design work. Photo Credit: Reese Moore

By Alicia Gronneberg, CFCC Foundation Intern

Chelsie Ravenell was born in Charleston, South Carolina and relocated to the Wilmington area in 2003 to play basketball at Cape Fear Community College [Wilmington, North Carolina].  Growing up in the “ghetto” (as he describes it) Chelsie realized after high school that he needed to do something with his life and CFCC gave him that opportunity.

“Cape Fear Community College gave me a second chance at life,” says Chelsie, who returned to school at age 24.  “In high school I got all C’s, but while I was playing basketball at Cape Fear I had a 4.0.”

Chelsie was enrolled in the business management program but also had a not-so-secret love for fashion, modeling, and designing clothes.  While Chelsie had always been interested in fashion and refers to himself as “the stylish dude who won best dressed in high school,” he found his true inspiration for fashion design after his uncle passed away.

“My uncle lived in my grandmother’s house. When he died we were cleaning it out, and I came across a brand new sewing machine—that’s when I taught myself how to sew.”

Chelsie started designing some of his first fashions while he was still enrolled at CFCC and while his friends often teased him for it he never let it hinder his work.

“The guys would be going out, and I would be staying home to sew,’ says Chelsie.  “I would go out the next night wearing something I made and people would really like it—it got me excited about what I was doing and continued to motivate me to make more and more.”

A few years later Chelsie created his clothing line, called KennethBeatrice, in honor of his grandmother and uncle—it was because of them that he began to fulfill his dream.  “Inspired by Life,” is the moto that Chelsie lives by.  He says he was inspired to design by the people who have passed away. “Through my line the people I have lost live on, and I will live on through the people who wear my line.  With that motto and mindset you never run out of ideas.”

Chelsie now spends his time between his hometown of Charleston, New York City and Los Angeles where he is a “one many army—designing, making, and marketing” his clothing line. He was recently featured as a semi-finalist during Charleston Fashion Week’s 2010 Emerging Designer Competition.

“She is very determined …” (Success Stories Series)

 

LLCC Spotlight(Reprinted from Lincoln Land Community College web site, “In the Spotlight, retrieved 9.26.11)

80-year-old student inspires young college students

“It’s never too late to achieve your dreams,” says Marian Johnson

Ask LLCC students, faculty and staff about Marian Johnson and you’re likely to hear comments such as “she is incredible,” “she exudes an extreme amount of joy to everyone she meets,” “she has so many life experiences,” “she is an inspiration to many” or “she is very determined.”

At age 80, Marian was determined to graduate with an associate degree.

Marian led a full life before returning to school. At 27, she stepped in to raise two younger brothers, aged seven and 14, when her mother passed away. After both boys were out on their own, she began taking care of another brother who was injured in World War II. Throughout her life, she also served as a foster parent, helping to raise and mentor 17 children.

Retiring from Illinois Bell in 1982 after 37 years, Marian enrolled at LLCC to work on an associate degree in nursing. However, she was impatient to get back to work and switched to LPN classes offered at the Capital Area Career Center.  She then worked as a private duty nurse, retiring from St. John’s Hospital in 2003 and from Presbyterian Home in 2007.

In 2008, Marian returned to LLCC. She credits Dr. John Roberts, professor of history, with encouraging her to finish her degree. “Wild horses couldn’t keep me away from here. I have received a lot of support from faculty, staff and fellow students,” says Marian.  “LLCC is an extraordinary place no matter what your age. The younger students don’t treat me any differently; they involve me in conversations and discussions. They don’t seem to mind that I’m an ‘old lady.’”

Marian clearly inspires her fellow students. Her 19-year-old peer tutor, Natalie Richardson (shown here at Commencement with Marian) commented, “I think I learned more from her than she learned from me.  She taught me about life, which is so useful. Although she is 80, she’s embracing and pursuing something she’s always wanted to do.”

Marian graduated with her associate degree this May and says, “I’d tell anyone thinking of coming back to college that it’s never too late to achieve your dreams.”

Turning Your Life Upside Down

by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

 

(Image retrieved from Google Images.  Web site for image: http://www.toxel.com/inspiration/2009/10/20/upside-down-house-in-germany)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ever take something that is really familiar and change it so drastically that it feels new?

I like to do that with furniture arrangement.  I change the placement of my living room furniture at least four times a year.   By reordering the center of my home, there seems to be a rippling effect into the other rooms.  I have to pass by the living room on the way to the kitchen, so I have the opportunity to appreciate the change several times a day.

When I travel long distances, I always fly.  This past summer, when visiting friends in New Jersey, I decided to take an Amtrak sleeper car up the East Coast.  I had never had such solitude and privacy when traveling before.  I was on the train for 13 hours and spent about half that time sleeping and the other half admiring the vista out my “picture window.” Although I enjoy the bird’s eye view that plane travel offers, the new vantage point from my sleeper car was refreshing! There is no question, I will be doing that again!

One of the courses I teach, I have taught dozens and dozens of times.  Last year, I changed part of it and that change infused new life into the course.  That went so well (and felt so good) that I completely changed the entire course for this year!  We have just ended the first week of the new term, and all of the things I used to do have been replaced by new lecture topics, new PowerPoint, and a new order of presentation of material.  It feels weird, but good.  It reminds me of buying a new pair of shoes that has a different sole and heel from your other shoes.  It feels weird, but there is a new awareness to how you walk and stand.

So, what can you do to gain a new perspective on your life?  What familiar things are you doing that you can rearrange, reorder and renew?

Taking college courses can help you do that – and it doesn’t matter what level of education you have.  One of my colleagues, who has two Ph.D.s, often takes the art and design courses that are offered to our undergraduates.  She is always amazed by the new perspective she has gained (with an added benefit of understanding the courses our students are taking).  These courses tend to turn her point-of-view upside down and she loves it!

If you have been considering returning to school – whether for your first college course or courses post-doc – now is just as good a time as any.  Although the fall term is already underway for most colleges and universities, there are fascinating workshops you can take through the Continuing Education department of your local college.  Check out their on-line catalog, and find the courses that will give you a new perspective.  Turn your life — or at least your perspective — upside down!

Taking Some Time (Success Stories Series)

Written September 11th, 2011
Categories: Community College
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(Reprinted from Eastern Illinois Community College “Spotlight on Alumni”)

Although not a Non-Traditional Student, Morgan Land’s academic experience at Eastern Illinois’ Community College illustrates how community colleges can help students figure out their career direction.  Non-Traditional Students, too, can take advantage of enrolling in courses in community colleges and seeking the wisdom and counselof the academic advisors.

 

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IECC Spotlight on Alumni – Morgan Land, FCC Graduate – Senior Counselor 
Morgan Land finds great satisfaction helping others improve their quality of life. As a Mental Health Specialist for Senior Life Solutions at Fairfield Memorial Hospital, Land is able to see positive results basically every day. Her clients are senior adults who suffer with depression, anxiety, or bereavement.

Land’s responsibilities include assessing the individual and facilitating group therapy. One of the first steps is performing a psychological and social assessment to determine if the individual qualifies for the program. This is done through a detailed history evaluation on the person’s childhood, education work, substance abuse, and so forth. A geriatric depression scale is also used in determining the individual’s need. The group therapy begins each day with an educational health topic, followed with discussions of life challenges and ways to cope with the present and future, and ends with a variety of fun activities that encourage cognitive stimulation.

Following her high school graduation in 2001, Land enrolled at Frontier Community College. She was fairly certain she wanted to pursue a degree in social work but not definite. “I knew if I went to the university I needed to declare a major,” stated Land. “By going to Frontier, I was able to take the general education classes and take my time to think about what I wanted to do. It was a good decision; the small class sizes were nice and having personal instructors helped me work through my ideas and goals.”

Land earned an Associate’s Degree from Frontier in 2003 and transferred to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. In May 2005 she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Work and remained at SIU-C until May 2006 when she completed the Master of School Social Work degree.

Prior to her current job, Land worked for Lutheran Social Services in Marion, Illinois. She started as a case aide working with foster care. Her duties as an aide included picking up children in foster care and taking them to visit with their biological parents. She was promoted to a case worker and remained working with foster care. In August 2009, she accepted the position with FMH Senior Life Solutions.

When thinking about where she is today with her career, Land credits her parents for a rational upbringing and instilling strong values and responsibility that have taught her to give back and assist people with their needs.

“Assisting people in getting their needs met and helping them improve their quality of life is great,” stated Land. “Watching the clients progress is amazing.” 

“He filled the stage with energy, passion and focus.” (Success Stories Series)

Mauricio Pita-Goncalves: Actor, Dancer and Singer

(Reprinted from Naugatuck Valley Community College “Alumni Spotlight,” July 2010)

Mauricio Pita-Goncalves, a 2009 graduate of the visual and performing arts theatre and dance program at Naugatuck Valley Community College [Waterbury, CT], and former vice-president of the College’s Student Government Association, was accepted into Yale University’s 2009 Summer Conservatory for Actors at the Yale School of Drama.

The highly selective program chooses only 30 students out of thousands of applicants worldwide. The conservatory only selects academically and artistically strong students who are willing to explore new concepts in a challenging environment by working with Yale alumni, faculty and theatre professionals as well as in workshops at the O’Neill Theatre Center and one-on-one classwork.

“Before Mauricio became a student of mine, I saw him in theatre productions at our College,” said Elena Rusnak, professor of English and dance at Naugatuck Valley Community College. “I was drawn to this remarkable young man because he filled the stage with energy, passion and focus. His seriousness of purpose is always recognizable and his determination unsurpassed by any student I have had in my long teaching career.”

The program is an intensive conservatory based on the principles of Stanislavski and focuses on the personal and professional growth of its participants. The conservatory consists of six different elements of acting which include: play analysis, acting class, voice and speech, improvisation and mask, movement and scene study. Patrick Diamond, director of the Yale Summer Conservatory for Actors, has worked extensively on Broadway, in Italy and in the U.S.

Mauricio has received awards including Outstanding Theatre Artist: Student of the Year 2007-08, the Who’s Who Among American Junior College Students, the Billie Mae Collier Scholarship for the Performing Arts – Voice and is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa and National Scholars honor societies. He has worked extensively as an actor with the New Zenith Theatre, the Warner Theater in Torrington, Connecticut and the Terpsichorean Dance Ensemble. He appeared in the summer of 2008 at the New York International Fringe Festival’s New York premiere of Symphony Pastorale and Fugue Series by Los Angeles playwright Robert Barnett. Following his Yale work, Mauricio will attend Marymount Manhattan College as a drama major in fall 2009.

What’s New?

by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

 

(Photo credit:  poptheology.com via Google images)

 

Welcome to the revamped “You Can Do College” site!  As you can see, several changes have been made to make it more accessible.  After all, the site is about you and for you!

Which got me thinking about revamping and revising …

When it comes to education, colleges and universities are in a constant state of having to “think ahead.”  They must anticipate your needs this year, next year and five years from now.  As technology changes, so must classrooms and courses.  Colleges are trying to help you prepare for a new life that will probably be rooted in your education.  Therefore, they must be forward thinking.

Are you keeping pace with colleges?  What’s new with you?  Are you revamping and revising your life?  Are you thinking ahead?  Are you preparing yourself for an interesting future?

Many colleges and universities are beginning their new academic year this week.  There’s always a crackle of excitement in the halls, the classrooms and the bookstore.  There is a sense of anticipation, sort of like New Year’s Eve – because it is a new year – an academic new year.  The atmosphere of a college campus is alive with possibility.

If you have never experienced the excitement of an academic new year, now is the time.  Although some schools are beginning classes right now, others will kick off over the next month.  You still have time to enroll in that dream course you have been thinking about.  And, even if you don’t enroll, maybe you can take a stroll around the campus of your local community college.  The excitement might just rub off on you!

So, there are a lot of new things going on:  a new blog site for “You Can Do College,” a new academic year, new plans for the future – and maybe even a new you!

 

(Note:  Many thanks to PepperStation for their ideas and changes to this site!)

Hollywood Screenwriter (Success Stories Series)

(Reprinted from “Alumni Spotlight” July 2010, Naugatuck Valley Community College web site)

 

 

 

 

 

John Fusco, accomplished Hollywood screenwriter, credits Naugatuck Valley Community College [Waterbury, CT] with the start of his successful career. He has written eight major motion pictures, six of which he also produced. You might recognize a few of the titles: Babe, Crossroads, Thunderheart, Young Guns and his latest, The Forbidden Kingdom, featuring Jackie Chan and Jet Li together for the first time. He also wrote the Academy-Award nominated Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. His research experiences on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation led to the controversial Thunderheart in 1992, an acclaimed expose of federal abuses in contemporary Native American communities. Fusco also went on to write the Native-themed ABC mini-series Dreamkeeper and the popular Disney epic Hidalgo.

A Waterbury native who grew up in Prospect, John was a high school dropout working in a factory and playing music in local nightclubs. He turned to Naugatuck Valley Community College, where he met his wife, Richela Renkun, to rebuild his life on his own terms. John’s sister, Kathleen LeBlanc, is an associate professor of human services at the College.

He fondly recalls, “The supportive environment and stimulating faculty encouraged and challenged me to streamline my goals. Although I was out of school for six years, Naugatuck Valley Community College helped prepare me to transfer to the school of my dreams — NYU Tisch School of the Arts.”

While at NYU, John won the prestigious Nissan Focus Award for students which led him to collaborations with DreamWorks and actor Robert DeNiro.

He is the author of the novel Paradise Salvage, currently earning rave reviews in Britain.

“Seeking another path …” (Success Stories Series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Reprinted from Community College Times of the American Association of Community Colleges, 4.4.11)

Richard Leigh –  Virginia Highlands Community College

The list of performers who have recorded songs composed by Richard Leigh reads like a who’s who of country music: George Jones, Dixie Chicks, Reba McEntire, Tammy Wynette, Conway Twitty, Kathy Mattea, and Mickey Gilley, among many others.

Eight Leigh compositions—among them “Come From the Heart,” “Put Your Dreams Away,” and “That’s the Thing About Love”—rose to the top of the charts. His biggest hit, Crystal Gayle’s “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” won a Grammy for Country Music Song of the Year in 1978. He has been inducted into Nashville’s Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, owns a space on the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences Star Walk and has produced songs that have sold more than 50 million records.

Not too shabby for a kid born in the hollows of Washington, D.C., who spent his high school years in the notably un-countrified suburb of McLean, Va.

Although Leigh always loved country music, his desire to go straight from high school into the music business was thwarted by his adoptive mother.

“She said, ‘Please go to college, because no woman is going to want to live with a guy who sits around on a couch and plays his guitar all day and doesn’t make any money,’” Leigh says. “I’ve since found out many women do, but I told her, ‘Alright, I’ll go to college.’”

After a high school guidance counselor recommended a career in forestry, Leigh, who liked camping and canoeing well enough, enrolled in the Haywood Technical Institute (now Haywood Community College) in North Carolina.

“After nine months, I realized I hated every minute of it,” Leigh says.

Seeking another path 

When Leigh looked into Emory & Henry College in Virginia, which his best friend attended, he was told he’d have to wait until the following fall.

“Then I applied to Virginia Highlands Community College (VHCC) [Abingdon, VA] and they took me right on the spot,” he says.

A chance encounter with William Van Keyser, head of the VHCC drama department, lead to an invitation to act at Barter Theater, the local professional company.

“I said I don’t act, and he said that doesn’t matter,” Leigh says. “I said that’s great, but does it pay anything, because I was putting myself through college. He said no, but you get school credit if you change your major, so I changed my major to theater.”

After three plays, Leigh had to join the union to continue performing at the theater.

“I had my Actor’s Equity card before I finished community college, which was unheard of,” Leigh says. “When I applied to Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) to finish my bachelor’s degree, they told me no one had ever applied to the theater department there as a pro.”

After graduating from VCU in 1974, Leigh moved to Nashville to break into the music business as a singer and songwriter.

“When I went to Nashville, I thought—naively—that all singers wrote their own songs,” Leigh says. “I got down there and found they needed songs because singers didn’t always write them. Turned out I was pretty good at making them up—better at that than singing.”

A year later, “I’ll Get Over You,” a song he wrote for Crystal Gayle, reached No. 1 and was nominated for Country Music Awards Song of the Year. “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” came out a year later and the next 30 years saw a stream of hits.

A desire to succeed

Leigh says his top ingredient for writing songs is a strong desire.

“I’m just of average talent, of average intellect, nothing ever stood out about me except my strong desire,” he says.

And while he’s usually introduced as “the guy who wrote ‘Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,’” he considers “It Ain’t Gonna Worry My Mind” his greatest achievement.

“It’s a song Ray Charles recorded on a duet album with Mickey Gilley,” Leigh says. “Ray Charles is my idol, and his singing it was probably the greatest thing that could happen to me. And the second verse talks about the state of Virginia—it’s a very personal song.”

One other song with great personal resonance is “The Greatest Man I Never Knew,” which he wrote after happening upon obituaries of his father who, along with his mother, died when Leigh was 2½ years old.

“It was a 10-million-selling record for Reba McEntire, and I think it’s still considered Reba’s greatest hit,” Leigh says.

Leigh, who with his wife, Shannon, lives on a Tennessee farm, keeps busy writing songs, lecturing, doing voiceovers, and performing concerts. In each of the last three years, he has performed benefit concerts at VHCC, which he remembers warmly as the place that gave him his start.

“The fact that I would walk into VHCC and it would change my life is phenomenal,” Leigh says. “Think of me, an orphan who walks up the steps of this school and is allowed to have an affordable education and rise to the top of his profession. That’s pretty amazing, and I couldn’t have done it without the school.”

The Fuel of Self-Doubt

by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

 

The other day I had lunch with a colleague.  We reflected on our experiences in our respective doctoral programs – she at Columbia University and me at the University of Utah.  Even though we were enrolled at different times and at different places, we shared one important thing in common – self-doubt.  We both felt that while we were in the programs, that we shouldn’t be there and that we would probably never complete the required exams and dissertation.

Some of the self-doubt came from the lack of support – or “negative support” – from  family members.  Our pursuing our education was resented by some of the people closest to us.  In addition, we compared ourselves to our cohorts and felt like we were out of place.  We subordinated ourselves to the opinions and performances of others.

In the companion book to this blog – also entitled You Can Do College – I recount all the self-doubt I had from the time I entered into the local Community College on through to the last weeks of my Ph.D. program.  The doubt finally evaporated when I earned my last degree and actually held the piece of paper that confirmed my achievement.  (I wonder, though, if the self-doubt would return if I decided to pursue another degree.)

Self-doubt appears to be a part of the process.  We put ourselves into new situations and new environments.  This takes us outside of our comfort zones.  Let’s face it – it just feels weird.  We are immersed into a learning environment where it means that we are no longer the experts in our field.  As Non-Traditional Students, we are generally the oldest in the class and wonder if we will be able to keep up with the concepts, with the technology, and with the other students.  We give ourselves all kinds of reasons to doubt our abilities.

Still, one must persevere.  In spite of all of the doubts, my colleague and I finished every program we began.  There was no coasting through, however.  The road we took was littered with stumbling blocks – time management, family needs, money, work issues and so on.  Some of the other stumbling blocks, though, we put there ourselves – most of which were born out of self-doubt.  Yet, we completed everything we started, making our accomplishments even sweeter.

Is this where you are?  Are you doubting your ability to return to school?  Are others adding to your own insecurities by discrediting your academic ambition?  Does it seem that you will be out of place in a college learning environment?  Enrolling into a program will not make those insecurities go away, but, as you earn good grades, your insecurities and doubt will lessen.

Perhaps self-doubt is the fuel that helps us to push ourselves.  You have probably said to yourself at one time or another, “If I can do this, I can do anything.”  The key word is “do.”  Don’t spend so much time overthinking your enrollment into college that you delay taking action month after month, year after year.  One thing is for certain:  getting a higher education is a no-lose proposition.  You can never be worse off for having attended college.  So, let the doubts be what pushes you – and then you will feel like you can do anything.