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Students between the ages of 25 and 60-plus are beginning to outpace their traditional-age counterparts on the college scene. On May 11, 2013, the Becker College Center for Accelerated & Professional Studies will graduate adult students focused on advancing their careers in business, psychology, education, and nursing.
Pam Yaylaian, Cecilia Pierce, and Shannon Gamache are among those soon-to-be-graduates, and they happen to be grandmothers.
All three women have also been inducted into the Theta Nu chapter of the Alpha Sigma Lambda (ASL) honor society, which recognizes the special achievements of adults who accomplish academic excellence while facing competing interests of home and work.
Pam Yaylaian, Business Administration
Pam Yaylaian of South Grafton, Mass., returned to college to fulfill a dream of completing her bachelor’s degree, started many years earlier when she was just out of high school. Her original goal was not career advancement but personal accomplishment. Now as she nears the completion of her program in business, she recognizes that the knowledge and tools gained through Becker’s accelerated program have provided her with the means to move ahead in a management role.
“The best part about the program was belonging to a cohort,” Pam says. A cohort is a group of students who move through an educational program together. Students progress through the same courses in a specified sequence each semester and, over time, develop a strong partnership. The group begins and graduates collectively. “Being a part of a team with them was very beneficial. We all helped and encouraged each other through the process,” she adds. She credits the format with helping her learn which questions to ask, how to analyze information, then report findings to management in order to exact change.
As a customer service manager at Springstone Financial in Southborough, Mass., Pam’s associates range in age from 20 to 60+. Within the cohort structure, she learned to strategize with people of many different experience levels, ages, and backgrounds, and ultimately how to leverage the strength of a group. “The program provided me with real-life experiences, which I brought back to my team at work,” she says.
Pam credits her parents as being “instrumental in who I am today.” Her father instilled a strong work ethic and always offered management advice. The ability to laugh and have fun came from her mother, who taught her that “you can do anything you put your mind to.”
Throughout her time at Becker, Pam appreciated having the full, unwavering support of her family and co-workers. She and her husband Bob will celebrate their 29th anniversary this year and have two children, Jen and Marco, a son-in-law Joe, and three grandchildren: Piper, Phaydan, and Paxton. “When I would have sleepovers with my grandchildren, we would do homework together. One day, my grandson asked me if I took the bus to school. It made me laugh to think that, in his mind, I was standing on the sidewalk with my backpack, waiting for the bus!”
As for other adults considering earning a degree, Pam advises to be sure the timing is right. “For me, it was perfect because my children were grown, my career was stable, and I had the time and energy to do this.”
Cecilia Pierce, Psychology
For Cecilia Pierce of Sutton, Mass., studying psychology through the accelerated program at Becker prepared her to advance in her career as a preschool teacher at Blackstone Valley Children’s Place in Whitinsville, Mass. by expanding her understanding of child development and behavior. She chose her field of study because “I feel behavior and how the mind works are very interesting. They are never the same for two people, which makes it challenging.”
She believes the diverse student population at Becker allowed her to gain better perspective and understanding of different cultures. Her favorite aspect of the program was the fast pace, with a new class beginning approximately every five weeks. Cecilia believes other adults considering a degree program should not procrastinate or give in to fear. “You can reach for the stars and accomplish your goals no matter how old you are,” she advises “It is never too late.”
Like Pam, Cecilia credits her parents with being strong influences in her life. “They taught me to be patient, kind, and not take anything for granted. They believe anyone can accomplish anything in life,” she says. “They have supported me through good and bad decisions, and have never once said, ‘I told you so.’” Cecilia feels blessed that her parents – ages 89 and 92 – will be able to see her graduate with honors. In addition, she has received tremendous support from her husband Eric, son Timothy, and one-year-old granddaughter, Layla Rose.
For Cecilia, the learning won’t end with graduation; she has more planned for herself. “My next goal is to research how to advocate for people of all ages. So many people have no one, and I want to help them.”
Shannon Gamache, Business Administration
“My experience at Becker College has been exceptional,” says Shannon Gamache of Mapleville, R.I. “Becker offers real-world experience through their use of cohorts, social media, and group discussions, as well as written and oral communications.” For her, the accelerated program in business administration was a perfect match, allowing her to successfully juggle studying and the demands of life. “My proudest accomplishment has been maintaining a 4.0 GPA while balancing a household and working full-time.”
Her mother had a profound influence throughout Shannon’s life, and she drew her own level of hard work and discipline from her mother’s example. “She taught me that working hard is a necessity in life to attain goals as well as overcome obstacles,” Shannon says. “Without her, I would not be the strong, independent, unafraid-to-take-risks woman I am today.”
As a senior class campaigns officer (fundraiser) at Brown University in Providence, R.I., Shannon feels her time at Becker has made her a better communicator and a more empathetic, well-rounded manager. Perhaps most importantly, she overcame her fear of public speaking through regular classroom presentations, enabling her to be more confident overall. She also cites the intense nature of the cohort program, fast-paced scheduling, online courses, affordability, and recognized accreditation as beneficial to her overall success. With this foundation, she has been promoted twice at Brown and proudly serves on the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). In the future, she plans to pursue a master’s in public administration at Roger Williams University.
This spring, Shannon’s son will also be graduating from high school, making it all “twice as nice.” She also has “a 13-year-old daughter, a fabulous, hysterical beau of three years, and a vivacious grandson who will turn two in July.”
Shannon would definitely encourage other adults to consider returning to college. “Stick to a time management schedule and work with your advisors. Doubling up is doable. Just do it!”
Relevant, Connected, and Engaged
For Pam, Cecilia and Shannon, time spent studying at Becker College’s Center for Accelerated & Professional Studies has benefitted them in ways they could not have imagined at the outset. They all proudly use words like “validating,” “empowering,” and “confidence-building” to describe what the program has done for them. Pam sums it up well: “I now have the self-confidence to be able to make changes and stand by my decisions.”
Although their days at Becker may be coming to an end, the knowledge they take will allow for three wonderful, new journeys to begin. On May 11, these three grandmothers will graduate along with their classmates as role models of positivity and perseverance not only for their children and grandchildren, but for all who dream of attaining something more. Adds Shannon, “I will proudly hold my diploma and transform into a graduate and alumnae of Becker College, all because of Becker’s vision and commitment to me and the accelerated program.”