In the fall of 1984, I enrolled at then “Memphis State University.” As near as I recall, my first class was an 8 o’clock English class. This afternoon, a mere 24 years after that first class, I graduated with a Bachelor of Professional Studies in Organizational Management (a fancy term for an online business degree). Of course, being in Salem, Oregon now, I didn’t attend graduation ceremonies. My degree will be mailed to me in July.
My grades won’t be official until Thursday, but my professor already gave me my grade on my final project, a 95 A. I had a 93 average for the class. The so called “Culminating Project” is a required class, which for me meant a 32 page research paper. My subject was “A History of Geocaching and Geocachers of West Tennessee.” I examined the organizational issues faced by anyone forming an organization from scratch., and the psychology of group dynamics.
How did I manage to cram 4 years of college into 24? Well, I went to Memphis State for one year, then took a short cut at State Tech, graduating with an Associate’s in 1987. By that time, I was working for a bank, making pretty good money for someone with no degree, and I laid out of college for about 5 years. After I got married, I realized if I never started back, I’d never finish, so I started taking one or two classes a semester, and spent one year commuting one or two nights a week to Blue Mountain College, in Blue Mountain Mississippi. By that time, we had two kids and it was hard to physically go to class, so I took one semester at Trinity College in their online program. Then the Tennessee Board of Regents established their Regents Online Degree Program, and I started working on this degree. College had gotten really expensive by then, and I was paying as much for a single class as I used to pay for a semester! Heck I was paying nearly as much for one BOOK as I used to pay for a semester! Ironically, my first spring semester, the Tigers made the NCAA Final Four. My last spring semester...the Tigers made the NCAA Final Four.
So what will I do with my new degree? Nothing I’m not already doing. I got where I am as a trust officer by working hard and learning on the job. I’ve gone to school long enough to see a lot of fellow students who BOUGHT degrees, but don’t have sense enough to come in out of the rain. A degree gets you an interview. In my years of banking, the few times I’ve tried to move around, the lack of a degree got my resume put in the wrong pile. Employers would look at my resume, see I didn’t have a degree, and toss it. Fortunately, my current employer looked past that. Of course, now that I have my degree, I’m working for a place I can’t imagine leaving!
I have three great regrets in life: one is too personal to share here; two is that I didn’t do at least one hitch of some sort of military service; and three is that I didn’t finish my degree when I was young, unmarried, and working part time. But I can finally say that what I started so long ago, I finished! Maybe someday, I’ll be able to say that about my student LOANS!!