Published on 2014/02/12

Transformation through Higher Education

Transformation through Higher Education
In addition to providing a pathway to a more fulfilling career, higher education is vital for a student’s confidence and courage.
Prior to attending University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNC Charlotte), I was narrowly focused professionally. If I wanted a specific project, I went after it. When I wanted to leave the music industry, I focused my energy solely on finding a job in NASCAR. After working for a NASCAR team for a while, the realization set in that I had achieved what I wanted but not necessarily what I needed.

Unfulfilled professionally and looking to change careers — after much encouragement from those close to mewhobelieved my pursuit of higher education would be a success — I enrolled at UNC Charlotte and began my pursuit of a new path.

My interests evolved during my pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in political science, with an international relations major and Africana studies minor.

At the beginning of this journey, I was fearful and slightly resistant to spending my days with individuals 20yearsyounger than myself, but those feelings quickly faded away. Today I consider individuals I never would haveexpectedto have anything in common with as friends.

Additionally, the fear of being too old to pursue higher education and an alternate career path was ever present. Added to my concerns was the uncertainty about taking time off from work, and whether it would laterprovea disadvantage. I honestly had no idea if I would make it through my first semester, yet here I am five years later working on a master’s degree at New York University (NYU).

Today, I am not as obsessed with age. I no longer view life in my 40s as an obstacle to success, but as an advantage.

Looking back on thelastfewyearsof my previous career, I was not very social, which is ironic considering I was a communications professional. Now I take advantage of all opportunities available to engage in this new world of politics, international affairs and economics that fascinates me.

Though my social circle has always included friends from around the globe, spending time in classes with individuals from diverse backgrounds better informed me about ideas and situations I thought I understood. I am more inquisitive and, though I have always been open to hearing other people’s ideas, I consider myself a better listener at this stage. I may have even changed my opinion on a few issues.

I have always considered myself adaptable to change but realized I was adjusted to a routine before I went back toschool. Academia has pushed me out of the comfort zone I built up over the years. I am more enthusiastic about life and my career. I figured out what intrigues, drives and inspires me in the world. I once placed those concepts away on a shelf because I believed they had no direct impact on paying the bills.

Now, however, I believe those ideas are the key to my success at the university level and also for my future endeavors. Some of my courage and confidence had slowly chipped away over the years but has now returned. I am not afraid to put myself out there and take risks. Professionally, I am no longer trepidatious about my future prospects. I am enthusiastic. There is more clarity regarding my future goals but I am open to the possibilities and not set on a specific final outcome.

I no longer worry daily about my future as I did when this journey began. Instead, I continue down the educational path, enjoying all of the scenery. When my time at NYU concludes, I will likely end up at a roundabout full of optimism and the confidence to choose an option that will challenge me while simultaneously allowing for financial

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Readers Comments

Tawna Regehr 2014/02/12 at 9:08 am

I’m happy that things worked out for the author, but I note that not everyone can change career directions so easily. Reading this made me think of some ways institutions could better support their adult student populations. For example, perhaps this non-traditional group could be given the opportunity to audit several courses in a program before committing their time and money to it. Most adult students have been out of the postsecondary system for quite some time, and may have forgotten what it’s like or know how to discern the right program for their needs. It seems Perkovich was in the fortunate position of being able to choose her major after some exploration, but not all adult students are in the same boat; some can’t afford a misstep.

lori perkovich 2014/02/12 at 5:40 pm

It was/is still a big gamble for me with being out of the workforce for so long, student loan debt and no future guarantees. Also, when I returned I had a 20-year gap in educational pursuits. Attending university was scary and not every course was a good fit, especially the mandatory math classes. But, I understand your point and that is part of the reason that I continue to write pieces on this site, as well as my own blog about ways to improve the non-traditional student experience based on my own personal experiences. I was fortunate to have an office for non-traditional students at UNC Charlotte, where I did work study and had access to resources that made my experience better than what many non-trads experience. Now that there are so many older students retuning to postsecondary education, I believe the system is slowly evolving.

nontrad 2014/02/15 at 7:41 pm

It’s heartening to read about another non-traditional student’s experience. I’m currently studying after having been out of school for more than 20 years. A friend of mine introduced me to this site, saying there are lots of articles about others in the same position as me. So far, so good!

I’m still settling in to the postsecondary routine, but my initial impression is that my institution has quite a few services for us to access that make the transition easier. For example, I’m taking a computer refresher course and we just completed a unit on how to do academic research using online journals. Part of the reason I chose the institution I’m with is that I felt their marketing materials and stated vision were closely aligned with the needs of adult students. So I think some institutions are more ahead than others in this regard.

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