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Commencement 2009


Do you have a story about your efforts to earn your degree that you want to share with others? Have you overcome unusual circumstances, tried an unusual path to a degree, returned after many years, or are sharing the experience with a family member? We want to hear about it and what it means to you. E-mail your story of about 300 words to Jean Wasp and we will post it to the Graduation Tales web site. Thanks for contributing.

MY CHILDHOOD WAS AKIN to growing up in a music conservatory. Music emanated from every corner of the house. Dad practiced or rehearsed with the Hollywood String Quartet in one room; Mother taught piano in another. At dinner, we listened to recordings of symphonies and chamber music. On Sunday evenings, my parents played sonatas as we three children sat transfixed. My parents’ friends were musicians so almost all adults with whom we had contact were involved in music. Naturally, my sister and I assumed that we, too, would become musicians. My brother never held such illusions. His lessons ended after he broke his violin bow in protest.

Our music education held high priority and, invariably, my father’s first question at the dinner table was, “Did you practice today?” After that came inquiries about school. My sister and I began our music studies with piano and later switched to harp. Neither of us liked to practice.

Life has a way of just happening; there are twists and turns one cannot predict. Before I knew it, I was a 24 year old widow with a three year old son. I had thought of my school teaching career as temporary but, with my husband’s death, it became permanent. I returned to school, enrolling in UCLA’s Graduate School of Education. I completed a doctoral degree there in August, 1971. Four days later, my son and I arrived at Sonoma State where I taught until 2000.

When I was teaching here, I often thought how wonderful it would be to take music classes. I never had time. As retirement drew near, I began to rekindle my childhood dreams. Then, in January, 2003, with the support of my husband, I took the plunge. I enrolled first at Santa Rosa Junior College and then transferred to Sonoma State. Much to my delight, the music departments at both schools were excellent; I couldn’t have asked for better. At SSU, my classes were exciting and challenging. My professors were wonderful musicians, fine teachers and student centered. I met others who shared my passion for music. I also learned that a pianist’s lot need not be lonely; there are duets and two piano works to be played.

What is in my future? I shall continue studying piano privately and playing duets. I am also planning a “new” career playing short piano recitals in elementary schools with Deborah Bartle, another graduate of SSU’s music department.

It is never too late to pursue one’s dreams. I hope to be like my mother who was still teaching piano at 92 years of age. I am only 72 years old.

- Deborah Priddy Kakalik

I DIDN'T EVEN THINK ABOUT COLLEGE when I graduated high school at 16 in England.  At the time, it wasn’t common to go to college and obtain a degree unless you were going to be a doctor, lawyer, or a teacher.  As none of those career paths were what I was considering, I chose to go straight into the workforce. 

I had a number of different jobs and usually did well, despite the lack of a degree, until many years later when I was passed over for a promotion at work that I really wanted because I didn’t have one.  At that point, I realized I might be stuck at the level I was at for the rest of my career, and the prospect didn’t thrill me.

With two young sons and a full-time job, I decided to test the waters of college and I enrolled at SRJC.  I started taking classes in the spring of 2001, 30 years after I had graduated high school.  I haven’t looked back.  It took me 4-½ years of taking two classes per semester to obtain my Associate degree at the junior college and I then transferred to Sonoma State in the fall of 2005. 

It’s taken me another four years but I am so excited to be graduating later this month with my Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration.  I have learned so much and enjoyed working with and getting to know many other students, most of whom are much younger than me.  My sons have grown up with mom in college and they are going to be in the audience when I receive my diploma.

I am now considering applying to the MBA or MPA program in a year or so as I’m not ready to stop learning.  I also got the promotion I had been passed over for eight years ago.

- Maureen Chapman

: "The more education you have, the more opportunities you have in life." She just would tell me this over and over. So before I graduated High School my mom and I took an American Sign Language class together. She had already been attending the junior college on her way to finish up her Associates Degree that she had started before she had four sons. I would take one or two classes a semester and knew that I would eventually finish. My mom graduated from the Junior College in 2003.

I finally finished up a few years later in 2005. By that time my mom was graduating from Sonoma State University. She had won the race to get a Bachelors Degree. I applied to Sonoma State for the Fall of 2005. I got accepted but I declined. I was not ready to face upper division classes, so I thought. I took a few more classes at the Junior College and then decided to apply for Sonoma State again in Fall of 2007.

By that time my mom had received her teaching credential from Sonoma State University in 2006. I lost the race again for schooling beyond a BA degree. The panic I felt for taking upper division classes was unnecessary. The professors were great in directing me to learn and research in my field of study. They helped me through Sonoma State getting all the classes need for two majors in two years.

I will be graduating on Saturday with a BA in Economics and in Environmental Planning. I am so glad to be graduation and accepted back into Sonoma State University for a Masters. Now my mom is searching out a Masters program in an attempt to gain a MA before I do. I believe that I will finally have a higher degree than my mother. She is so proud that I have gotten all of the education that I have and will continue to get. Even though I will have a Masters before her.

My younger brother is also attending Sonoma State University now and hopes to graduate in 2010 with a Bachelors in Nursing and then obtain a Masters Degree as well. It is possible to get an education for anyone that strives to accomplish it. Soon my family will have three graduates from Sonoma State University.

- William Petker

CIRCUITOUS. That’s the best word I can find to describe my journey through life. My father says I do everything backwards. Perhaps he’s right. I certainly didn’t take the normal route. I like to think I’ve followed my passion and let my life unfold. When I started at Sonoma State University the first time, in 1979, there were so many things I wanted to learn. So I sat down with the catalogue of classes and circled everything that interested me. Thanks to the flexibility of SSU, I was able to design an individualized interdisciplinary degree combining classes that interested me. My undergraduate education was temporarily interrupted by the birth of my first son. This was an unplanned journey into motherhood, after all I was only19, but this amazing life changing experience inspired me to study midwifery and women’s health. I continued taking a couple classes a semester at SSU, occasionally bring my baby with me to class. I also worked with a local Midwife/Physician team. I learned so much from the birthing women I assisted. I finally finished all my course work and graduated from SSU seven years later with a BA degree. In the meantime I married, had another baby, and bought a house.

Next, after attending nearly 100 births, I decided it might be a good idea if I became a Certified Nurse Midwife, so I went to nursing school and received an Associate Degree in Nursing. Talk about going backwards academically. It was always my plan to complete a masters degree in nursing, but life had other plans for me. I had another child and started working in the hospital. There I realized there was so much that needed to be changed so that women could have a more positive experience giving birth. I’ve spent the past 19 years in leadership roles in the hospital setting; leadership roles that required a masters degree.

But, I am just now completing a Masters of Science in Nursing at SSU. I chose the graduate program at SSU because, once again, it was flexible for someone like me who does everything backwards. The program allowed me to focus on areas of leadership that were of interest to me so that I could make the best use of my passion to learn and grow. Thank you SSU for supporting me as I find my way on this amazing journey of life.

- Madrone Williams

I CAME TO THE UNITED STATES FROM KOREA when I was 17 years old and I attended Montgomery High School in Santa Rosa, California. Then, I entered SRJC in 1980. I studied there for 3 years with double majors in Music and Science. Then, I worked at Hewlett Packard/Agilent Technology Company for 19 years and in the year of 1998-2001, I was able to earn a BA for Business Management in Computer Information Systems. I got laid off from the company and I owned a deli shop for two years and got a job at Sonoma State University Library. I have been always wanted continue my education, and here I am with Masters Degree. Being a reentry student with two teenage children was not easy.

During my work in the Masters program and in the SSU Library, there have been wonderfully influential mentors surrounding me: professors, librarians, staff members, who all supported and encouraged me and acknowledged the effort I was putting forth, and who provided me with all necessary resources. My numerous supporters included the Library Dean, Administrators, Librarians, and Staff, who always encouraged me to achieve my dreams and goals. They supported my continuing education and delegated technology projects so that I could understand how to enhance my education and career in educational technology. My colleagues were constantly praising, encouraging, assisting, and mentoring me to stand up for who I am and to expand my horizons. The library online resources, databases, books, and print journals were great tools for my research.

My professors from School of Education were very patient and their positive attitudes toward my education were such that I admire each of them very much. I enjoyed learning about education philosophy, theory, current American education, literary research, teaching methods, and technology skills. Overall, the Department of Education Masters Program's mission, vision, and values made it very clear that I was capable of achieving my educational and career goals.

Finally, my family all supported me with encouragement to study and focus during my Masters program. Watching and seeing that I follow through with my educational path, both my kids now believe that continuing education is very important. My son is a sophomore in college and my daughter is a senior in high school, and they both already are talking about what colleges they should attend for their Masters degree. I am glad that I can be a role model for my family and colleagues who are not afraid to pursue higher education. I truly appreciate all the support that I got from home, school, and work!

- Kathryn Jeon

I AM AN ELEVENTH YEAR EMPLOYEE OF SSU. I am celebrating my 25th year as Educational Support Staff.  

Nothing in my life so far will touch me as much as the moment on the afternoon of May 23, 2009 when Edith Mendez reads my daughters name: Heather Henderson.

Heather grew up on this campus.  She knew the campus before Toast and the Schulz Library and when there was still had a football team.  Living close by we can still remember hearing and feeling the pile driver as Schulz was being built.  Heather attended Super Kids Camp and Excel classes here during the summers.   

Heather did not want to attend SSU for those very reasons; she wanted to have her own college experience away from SSU.  

She attended Arizona State University for one semester.  It wasn’t a good fit.   It was an honor just to get into a Pac Ten school.

Heather transferred to CSU, Chico in Spring 2005.  My mantra became: “the college experience is not just what you learn in the classroom but outside the classroom as well!”  I became a better employee because I experienced Heather’s outside the classroom learning.  Heather thrived at Chico.  She worked in the Admissions Office and led tours of the campus.  She changed her major several times; she thought might want to be a Student Services Professional.

In the summer of 2007, she was diagnosed with Osteochondritis dissecans.  She had surgery at UCSF a week before the semester started at Chico.  She was determined to start the semester.  She had to move closer to campus to accommodate being in a wheelchair for six weeks.  Along with her studies was the grueling physical therapy and the endless trips to San Francisco for medical appointments.  It was a difficult semester.

In May 2008, Heather was faced with a second surgery.  A mosaicplasty (bone and cartilage transplant) was scheduled as soon as finals were over.  She then made what she calls her first adult decision:  Heather transferred to Sonoma State University.

Heather will graduate from Sonoma State University on the Commencement Lawn where she played in the summers of her youth.   She plans to do something in Education…not sure what yet but her first stop will be teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) aboard. This will give her time to thing about grad school or going into the work force.

- Marybeth Hull

I RECEIVED MY B.A. DEGREE IN 1970. Since 1982 I have been a professional teller of traditional stories and I was happy to find many of my teachers and classmates intrigued by this. People ask me, “Cathryn, what are you going to do with your degree? Teach?” No, except by example.

If you have the attention span and make the time, I can give you Homer’s Odyssey as it was meant to be experienced, from the lips of a bard. I take people with me to the ends of the earth as I relate the adventures of Gilgamesh, a very relevant epic of immortality composed 5000 years ago. I see myself as an expander of attention spans, a promoter of wisdom and humor and tolerance, a conduit for traditional values and cultural history.

My Master’s Thesis is on Chinese Teahouse Storytelling and I took two trips to China to do interviews and research. When I was taking language classes at the university of Tianjin in China in 2007, I regularly invited young fellow students to my apartment for an evening of stories. Dozens showed up, brought food and listened for hours, always asking for more. They were from all over the world and most of them had never heard stories told for an adult audience. That is what I will be doing with my degree, encouraging cultural understanding.

I love China and have been traveling there since 1977, so I have seen enormous changes. But no one, not men, not women, nor the newly rich go back to university in China. It is not a concept nor a future goal. So I know how lucky I am to be a master’s graduate. My experience here at SSU has made me a better storyteller; it has increased my writing and editing and research skills and encouraged me that academia and the upcoming generation want to hear what I have to tell them.

- Cathryn Fairlee