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 graduation pinning ceremony for what will hopefully be our last and final totally virtual celebration. This event is a special tradition in the Women’s Center with its intentions rooted in creating celebratory space for both our continuing and graduating returning women students/adult learners 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 financially 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. Affiliate Scholars are also an important part of our program (and if you’re interested in joining, reach out to the Women’s Center!). This year we had our largest cohort of scholars + affiliates that included 32 students participating in this unique program.
In pre-pandemic times at this 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, we still created a “collective assembly” in which graduates invited us to share in their joy, excitement, gratitude, and sheer relief. “I finally made it!” was heard more than once!
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 that 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. You can learn more by checking out this great Class of 2021 graduation story featuring adult learners and transfer students’ experiences. The feature includes two of our graduating seniors featured below!
So, it is with great joy that I invite you to join me in celebrating these fantastic students and their accomplishments. Below are this May’s graduating Returning Women Student Scholars who in their own words* share what they were involved in at UMBC, what’s next for them after UMBC, and advice they wanted to share with other adult learners.
Charla Spano, Bryson-Neville Scholar
Major: Social Work
What was your experience like as an adult learner?
In the beginning, I remember feeling the need to explain to everyone why I was back or what stopped me in the first place. It was hard coming from community college where a lot of people took classes after work or were just returning. It was not out of the ordinary to be in class with a bunch of returning students. Luckily, being a social work major and being part of the RWS group I quickly realized it does not matter what stopped me or interrupted my education. The important part was that, I returned and I am working towards one of my goals.
Looking back on your experience, what is your advice for current Returning Women Students?
You can do it! and there are many of people at UMBC that want to see you do it!