Graduation Speaker: Emily Bowmer

Emily Bowmer was one of the student speakers at the Penn State World Campus Graduation Celebration for summer semester. Here are the remarks she shared.

Hello and good evening everyone,

I’d like to start by saying what an honor and a privilege it is to be with you.

As you heard, my name is Emily, and I am a proud graduate of the Master of Education in Higher Education program through World Campus. I was born, raised, and reside in Amarillo, Texas, with my husband, Jonathan, my son, Douglas, my daughter, Sabine, 3 dogs, and more cats than I am comfortable mentioning. If you are unfamiliar with where Amarillo is, it is located in middle of the Panhandle. It is very flat there! I’m pretty sure if you stand on a bucket, you can see the curvature of the Earth. 

My journey with Penn State started as an undergraduate back in 1998. I came here as the granddaughter of a Class of 1951 graduate, and y’all, I have bled blue and white ever since. I distinctly remember the first time I ever set foot on the University Park campus. It was March of 98, and there were remnants of a substantial snowfall all around.  Everywhere I looked, there were students in navy, white, and gray. Every shirt and hoodie said Penn State. The University buildings looked stately and more grand than any picture I had ever seen. I knew, beyond the shadow of doubt, this is where I belong.

After graduation, I returned to Amarillo. It was really great to be close to family again, but part of me remained in State College. I started my career in higher education as an instructor. I never knew I would love teaching as much as I did. Over the years, budget cuts and department changes shifted my role into that of an academic adviser. As much as I loved teaching, advising was ten times better. I was able to serve students in a more hands-on role.  I had more time to form relationships than a single class would allow. It was then I knew I had found my career. 

As I continued working as an academic adviser, I began to realize I would need a master’s degree if I ever planned to work in another institution.  I decided to apply to the university just down the road. I was not accepted. I was heartbroken. My confidence was shattered, and I began to take a closer look at the career I had chosen. I don’t know if any of you have ever gotten to a point in your career where you are truly reflective, but that’s often when the most interesting things happen! I met with several students who reinforced I was in the right place. Then, the voice of reason, AKA my mom, asked if Penn State had anything to offer. Lightning flashed! What about Penn State?!

I ventured to the World Campus website, and there it was, the M. Ed. in Higher Education! That’s it! I started looking at the details — admissions requirements, the cost, and how long it would take. One of the admission requirements was the GRE. My confidence was again shaken. I hadn’t been to school or studied for a test in over 15 years! Besides, Penn State wants the best students for their school.

How could I, the reject from a regional university, even hope to get in? I stopped looking. But something kept tugging at me. Something kept bringing me back to the World Campus website to look at the program. Something kept telling me maybe I was good enough. That’s when I saw it. For anyone who had worked in higher education for 3 or more years, the GRE requirement was waived! That meant me! 

I sent an email to make sure I was reading the fine print correctly. I received the warmest email in return. Susan Bass answered all of my questions and assured me I was understanding all the application requirements correctly. Her kindness was obvious even via email. OK! No more excuses. No more reasons to not apply. So I took the leap. 

Now, I waited, and I waited, and then, I waited some more. Each passing day brought more discouragement and less hope. Finally, the day arrived when I would know one way or another if I was admitted. I was at work when the email came in. I was honestly afraid to look, but I decided it was better to just rip the Band-Aid off. Email opened: “Welcome to program!” I screamed!! I did it. I was in.

The next part of the process was a whirlwind. It was time to meet my program director and my adviser. I was excited and nervous. My meeting was held via Zoom. As soon as I joined the meeting, I knew I was among friends. Dr. Paulson was wearing a Penn State sweatshirt, and Dr. Goldstein was muted because her dog likes to bark while she’s in meetings. I was back with my people. I was home.   

A short eighteen months later, I am back in my favorite place celebrating all of our graduates. It wasn’t always easy, but it was always worth it. I have had the opportunity to share my story with you tonight, but as I look out at all of you, I realize each one of you also has a story. It’s an important story, and it is worth telling. As we continue to share time together, I encourage you to share your story!  Every journey is unique, but we can all unite to say, “WE ARE!!  Penn State GRADUATES!!”

Thank you.