Sometimes life takes us on a journey full of twists and turns – for Rachel Upper those twists and turns brought her full-circle, back to Trent University, to finish the post-secondary journey she started in 1972.
“Back then, I didn’t really have a plan. I completed my first year at York University and transferred to Trent where I did a few Sociology and Women’s Studies courses for a year, took some time off to start a family, and came back for a year in 1984,” says Rachel. “This past winter I realized that I needed to do something to keep my brain from turning into mush. Since I needed only a few credits to get my degree, I started contemplating going back to school.”
Just a few months later, Rachel decided to take the plunge and reached out to Dr. Leo Groarke, president and vice-chancellor of Trent University, to learn more about her options. Worried about technological challenges, the financial implications, and doubting her own abilities to keep up, Rachel hoped that her existing credits and work experience might be enough to graduate.
“Rachel wrote such an impressive email: it was genuine and honest and communicated her desire to find a way that she could finish a journey she began many years earlier,” said President Groarke. “Inspired by Rachel’s story, the Office of the President decided to provide her with the support needed to complete her final course and officially graduate from Trent.”
It takes team work
With Trent’s programming and course offering changing over the years, Rachel was paired with Dr. Michael Eamon, principal of Traill College, and Jackie Orsetto, academic advisor, to assist in finding the best possible course and degree program to complement her existing credits, as well as interests.
This summer, Rachel enrolled in the Case Studies in Arts and Science course with Dr. Jessica Marion Barr, to meet the credit requirements for a Bachelor of Arts and Science (B.A.S.) degree.
“If it hadn’t been for Michael, Jackie and Jessica, I probably wouldn't have been successful,” says Rachel. “Together with Leo, they made my Trent experience everything and more. I was so excited and was truly committed to getting my degree.”
At first, Rachel kept her enrolment at Trent a secret from her loved ones. This meant that she had to master online learning and going back to school for the first time since the mid-eighties, all by herself. The guidance she found at Trent, from academic advising through to IT, gave Rachel the support she needed to succeed.
With getting her B.A.S. degree now ticked off her to-do list, Rachel could not be more proud.
“I wanted to prove to my children that you don't ever give up. You don't quit,” Rachel explains. “If you need to take a little time out, do that, but always go back and finish the things that you know you're excited about, or things that you weren't sure you could do. Because you really can do them, if you just take the time to do it.”