Celebrating our May 2020 Returning Women Student Scholar Graduates!

A post curated by Women’s Center director, Jess Myers.

Last week, the Women’s Center celebrated our Returning Women Student Scholars + Affiliates graduating this semester at our pinning ceremony. While distance learning in a pandemic has disrupted and cancelled many things over the past semester, we weren’t going to let this tradition get cancelled! So, as with most things these days, we took to our computers and phones to celebrate virtually!

InkedRWS Celebration 20 CLAP (1)_LI

A “group photo” via a screen shot during our Webex Graduation Celebration! 

This event has become a tradition in the Women’s Center as a means to celebrate our continuing and graduating returning women students who are UMBC students 25 years and older seeking their first undergraduate degree. These students are called “returning” because they often have various circumstances that have kept them from what our popular culture deems as a traditional college path and they are now “returning” to college to pursue their degree. Student scholars in this program not only receive scholarships to help financial supplement their tuition, but also benefit from tailored support and programming from Women’s Center staff through individualized meetings, programs, and events that meet the specific needs of older students on campus. Each year we have between 20-25 scholars and affiliates participate in this unique program.

In usual times at this special “pinning” ceremony, graduating seniors receive their Women’s Center Returning Women Student Scholars + Affiliates pin to wear at graduation along with a yellow rose. This year, we sent their pins to them via snail mail and they pinned themselves!

Upon their pinning, each scholar says a few words. Despite being in their own homes and not sharing physical space with each other, graduates still invited us to share in their joy, excitement, gratitude, and sheer exhaustion. “I finally made it!” rang through the Women’s Center lounge walls along with laughter and tears.

Anyone who has spent time in the Women’s Center knows that working with this special group of students is one of my favorite experiences in my role as director of the Women’s Center. At a University which celebrates, grit and greatness (even during non-pandemic times), no other student cohort exhibits both with such deep grace and humility. As individuals and as a community, they are brave and unstoppable.

So, it is with great joy that I invite you to join me in celebrating these fantastic students and their accomplishments. Below are some of our graduating students who in their own words* share what they were involved in at UMBC, what’s next for them after UMBC, and some sage advice for other adult learners.

I also invite you to read a UMBC graduation news story I had the privilege of writing that  features a more in depth view of 4 of our students’ experiences at UMBC and their quest to graduation.

Happy Graduation!!!

Shanice Bramwell, Newcombe Scholar
Major: Health Administration and Policy (HAPP)

20200511_185525 - Shanice Bramwell

A self-submitted photo of Shanice. 

What was your experience like as an adult learner?
Adult learning is more complex than traditional learning. I loved that the Women’s Center gave me a place to belong.

Looking back on your experience, what is your advice for current Returning Women Students?
Realize that it will include many sacrifices in order to do well. We work twice as hard because of our family load and our school work load. Organization and creating realistic schedules will come in handy.

What are your plans after graduation?
More school, work, and family!

Karla Gonzalez, Newcombe Scholar
Major: Social Work

Karla G- self-submission.1

A self-submitted photo of Karla and her family. 

 

What you were involved in at UMBC and what was your experience like as an adult learner?
During my time at UMBC, I was involved with the Social Work Student Association (SWSA) and volunteered at many events as well as participated in the monthly meetings. I was the service event board member position through fall semester 2019. It was during spring semester 2019 that I became involved with the Women’s Center and I wish now that I had become involved as soon as I came to UMBC.
As an adult learner, I wanted to fit in, I wanted to have a college experience like traditional students and I wanted to take advantage of all the resources available on campus. Although I knew I could never really have a traditional college student experience, I met so many people that helped make my experience at UMBC, wonderful. These included professors that were helpful in me learning the material (like human biology), other adult students who could relate to my experiences as well as younger students who treated me as any other student, not caring that I was ten years older than them. I am grateful for the Social Work department, Women’s Center, the Off-Campus Student Services (OCSS), the Career Center and the Writing Center. These resources really helped me have a great experience at UMBC.

Looking back on your experience, what is your advice for current Returning Women Students?
My advice would be to allow yourself to get out of your comfort zone and participate in different activities. OCSS offers adult learners activities like family game nights and it was great to connect my two worlds, parenthood and “student-hood,” even if it was one night. I know it’s easier to come for class and leave right away, but take that time to make connections with other students, with professors, to get the best out of your learning experience.

What are your plans after graduation?
After graduation, I will be attending the University of Maryland School of Social Work as an advance standing student.

You can learn more about Karla’s story and experience at UMBC through this UMBC graduation news story featuring 4 returning women students. 

Josephine Gyasi-Baaye, Bryson-Neville and Aegon Scholar
Major: Social Work 

What was your experience like as an adult learner?
My experience as an adult learner was motivated by my set goals as and a determination of achieving a professional growth. At UMBC, I was a member of Sigma Alpha Lambda.

Looking back on your experience, what is your advice for current Returning Women Students?
My advice to all adult learners is never to give up on themselves as a student… and take advantage of campus resources.

What are your plans after graduation?
As mother of three, I plan to work part time and continue with graduate school this Fall. I have been accepted into the University of Baltimore for their Master’s in Social Work.

Samantha Homa, Affiliate
Major: Geography and Environmental Studies

IMG_1943 - Samantha Homa

A self-submitted photo of Samantha. 

What you were involved in at UMBC and what was your experience like as an adult learner?
I thoroughly enjoyed participating in service learning as a Peer Facilitator for the Introductory to an Honors University (IHU) courses for four semesters. As an adult learner, I felt very grateful for my professors, UMBC staff, and classmates because I could appreciate their effort in my learning experience. This was something I definitely did not see my first semester. That is growth and the beauty of perspective.

Looking back on your experience, what is your advice for current Returning Women Students?
Try to understand what you need to be productive and satisfied in all areas of your life. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it because you may be surprised to find out others are going through the same struggles as you.

What are your plans after graduation?
Enjoy more hikes with my handsome hound Harry! Work part time and continue to take a few more courses at UMBC to eventually apply to medical school!

Nia Latimer, Newcombe Scholar
Major: Social Work

What was your experience like as an adult learner?
Initially, I was nervous about being an adult learner, but when I saw the diversity on campus, I was very comfortable and never made to feel out of place in my classes.

Looking back on your experience, what is your advice for current Returning Women Students?
Be open and don’t be afraid. You have support! The Women’s Center helped me tremendously being my home away from home.

What are your plans after graduation?
I plan to attend and have been accepted to UMB’s School of Social Work’s Advanced Standing graduate school program.

You can learn more about Nia’s s story and experience at UMBC through this UMBC graduation news story featuring 4 returning women students. 

Joanna Riley, Newcombe Scholar
Major: Social Work 

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A self-submitted photo of Joanna and her son in their UMBC gear while out for a hike.

What you were involved in at UMBC?
I was a student in the Social Work program and during my free-time I visited the Women’s Center. I live an hour away from campus and a single parent to a 10 year old. It has been hard to be active with the other students on campus because I have to return home to take care of my son.

Looking back on your experience, what is your advice for current Returning Women Students?
I would tell people to utilize the Women’s Center as much as possible. I felt so out of place and the Women’s Center was the one place I felt at home. If I had more time I would have loved to attend more events and workshops.

What are your plans after graduation?
I will be in Social Work Advanced Standing at University of Maryland, Baltimore campus.

Terece Young, Bryson-Neville 2018 Scholar
Major: American Studies and Sociology 

amst - Terece Young

Self-submitted photo of Terece

Whhat was your experience like as an adult learner?
My experience at UMBC as an adult learner was challenging and rewarding. When you look around your class and see you are the oldest one or get mistaken for a professor on the first day of the semester, it’s easy to get discouraged. However, as time went on, I began to see that me being older was a benefit, because I had life experience to rely on, which helped with discussions, writing papers, projects, etc. I don’t know if I would have done as well in school fifteen years ago, so in hindsight, I am glad that went for my degree when I did.

Looking back on your experience, what is your advice for current Returning Women Students?
My advice for current Returning Women Students is to use your age and life experience to your advantage, especially when in comes to writing papers, projects, discussions, and problem solving. No one else sees things from our point of view. Also, the Women’s Center is an amazing place, so use it. I would go there sometimes to study or relax. If you have a problem, they are there for you, and will always make you feel better and find a way to help. I don’t know if I would have made it without the Women’s Center and the people that work there.

What are your plans after graduation?
The plan I have for after graduation is to move to Florida where my dad and sister live. I want to work in the pro wrestling business, and luckily, wrestling is very popular in Florida, so I am going to find a way to get involved. I was accepted to Full Sail University for their MFA in Creative Writing Program. In the program, I plan to focus on writing for wrestling.

Lauren Hall, 2018 Newcombe Scholar
Master of Arts in Teaching 

What you were involved in at UMBC?
I was a Returning Women Student Scholar for my undergraduate career, a Graduate Assistant with the Education Department during my grad career. This year, I submitted a piece to the Bartleby Literary Magazine and I was the Creative Non-Fiction section winner. That piece also won me the Braly Award for Creative Non-Fiction.

Looking back on your experience, what is your advice for current Returning Women Students?
…Never give up. Even if you get bad marks on a project, keep trying. I got a D on the first paper I wrote as an adult learner but I’m graduating as a celebrated UMBC writer with a 4.0 🙂

What are your plans after graduation?
I’m taking the summer off (something I was never able to do as a single-mom going through school) to finish a book I started during my time at UMBC. In the fall I hope to be high school English full-time while I look into grad writing programs. My hope is to make a living writing or teaching at the college level.

You can learn more about Lauren’s s story and experience at UMBC through this UMBC graduation news story featuring 4 returning women students. 


Congratulations to our other Returning Women Students Scholars + Affiliates graduating this May:

Tatiana Pearson , Newcombe Scholar 
Vicky Hughes,
Aegon Scholar 

Jumina Ito,Newcombe Scholar
Tomiko Shine, 2015 Newcome Scholar
Aieda Solomon,
Newcombe Scholar 

Sheila Yeelon, Jodi Mister/Newcombe Scholar 

RWS Orientation Fall 2019 - group photo with Nia, Jumina, Karla PLUS Freeman

The 2019-20 cohort of Returning Women Student Scholars and Affiliates at August orientation. 

For more information about the Returning Women Student Scholars + Affiliates program, visit the Women’s Center website. Returning Women Students at UMBC are also encouraged to join the group’s Facebook group.

 

*Minor edits were made for clarification and tone. 

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