Christy Grim began the quest to earn her degree in the fall of 2011. Like many adult learners, she faced her share of challenges. During most of her time as a student, she worked a full-time job. As she neared the completion of her studies, she took a leap of faith, quitting a job in a field where she’d worked for 18 years to accept an internship that would help her pursuit of a new career path. She’s also the busy mom of two young children. In May, she accomplished her goal, earning her Bachelor of Science degree in Information Sciences and Technology with the other Spring 2017 graduates.
She was one of the student speakers at the Penn State World Campus Graduation Celebration.
Here are her remarks from the event:
Good evening, and Happy Graduation Eve, Everyone!
Whether you are the graduate tonight or are here supporting one, we are all celebrating exciting achievements. We all have a meaningful story of how we got to this moment, which is why I am so truly honored to be sharing my personal experience with you.
I began my journey six years ago, in 2011, when I no longer felt challenged by my work as an Optician after fourteen years. I considered going to Optometry school, but ultimately, I really just wanted to be out of the field. I learned about Penn State World Campus during my search for online education. It stood out among the other online programs because it was rated highly and I knew the Penn State community was tight knit. I then decided to introduce the idea to my husband.
I hit him the moment he got home from work…Babe! I want to go back to college, I want to do something that I can be excited about. What do you think?
I was pretty nervous to bring the idea up to him because I tend to be a dreamer and he is very much a realist. However, it turned out to be a dream that he has always supported.
From my first class, he took over all the house work and was there for the meltdowns I had while struggling with studying, working full-time, and commuting three hours a day, all while trying to be a good mom and wife. He even comforted me during the Giant Meltdown of 2012 — when I realized that I would be almost forty when I graduated.
When I began my degree, my children were entering 1st and 3rd grade. Every parent who goes back to school is faced with the overwhelming guilt and reality that their children must now share their time with your textbooks. In my opinion, this was the most difficult thing about being a parent and student. You know that what you’re doing is so important, but you can only hope that one day, they will understand that importance. They are now finishing 6th and 8th grade.
In the spring of 2012, I decided to change my major from Business to Information Sciences and Technology — with fear as my guide. Because while it is exciting and fascinating, the world of technology is equally intimidating.
Shortly after I changed paths, I met a member of what our program now calls the “Dream Team of Group Projects,”— and there are many group projects in IST! Ray Vasquez invited me to attend a Blue and White Society meeting, and from there, my college experience changed entirely.
I assumed that by taking courses online, I would do my thing — study, roll through classes, and get my degree. What I did not expect was to form many really great friendships in the process!
When Ray later invited me to be the vice president of the club he was putting together, I quickly asked …”will I have to speak? Speaking in public kind of isn’t my thing.” But we went on to build the World Campus Technology Club and, along the way, I made more friends and gained such an amazing support system, which included Amy Stever, online education director in Penn State’s College of IST. She has been so supportive and I truly appreciate all of the kind words she has offered along the way in addition. Thanks to Amy, the IST Dream Team, the clubs, and my professors, I really feel like a true Penn State student.
In one final game-changing experience during my journey, I met a family neighbor who told me that he couldn’t guarantee anything but — if I sent him my résumé — he would see if he could get it into the right hands.
Roughly a month later, I found myself sitting in a Lockheed Martin conference room full of traditional-aged interns. As we were picked out for one-on-one interviews, each of my interviewers began with some version of the same opening comment: “Uhh, your résumé looks pretty different from everyone else’s today!” I happily responded, “Yes, I’m sure it does!”
I was offered a coveted internship, but quickly realized how different from the other interns I was! I was leaving a career behind that I had worked to become an expert in, for a chance at a career that I was just learning. Other interns talked about living with their parents during the summer and heading back to their dorms when the internship ended. I never treated the internship as temporary; I took pictures of my family to the office and hung them everywhere. When people asked me when my last day of the internship would be, my response was “eh, whenever they kick me out or stop paying me.” I said this because my reality was, when the internship ended, my family was down an income.
I took an enormous chance with my decisions over the last 6 years, but that uncertainty made me work even harder than I knew I could. I can never say “no” to a task and I credit that attitude with netting me a full-time offer as a Systems Engineer with Lockheed Martin, a position which allowed me to go on to become Scrum Master Certified. I still go into work every single day intimidated and terrified, but also very excited to be there!
So, I challenge everyone to go after the things that scare you the most. Allow the fear to inspire and guide you towards learning what you are capable of achieving. Because, you just may surprise yourself.
And that is my story. Thank you!