‘In my wildest dreams, I never imagined graduating’ – Kimberly Ewing
Kimberly Ewing faced down educational disappointment to earn a B.A. in Organizational Leadership. On June 3, with just a few days’ notice, she stepped up to the podium at the Northern Commencement to share her story with her fellow graduates. Here’s what she said:
Upon reflection of my experiences during the process of earning a college degree, there are two main themes which continually contributed to my challenges and successes. The encouragement of invested teachers and the guidance of supportive academic counselors bridged the gap between failure and accomplishment.
In grade school, I excelled with the encouragement of my teachers. There was never confusion of what I needed to complete to bring home a report card my parents could be proud of. In junior high, I transferred to a new school and learning (or lack thereof) became a completely new experience. In sixth grade, I was not taught math; seventh-grade math class consisted of running errands for the teacher; my eighth-grade math teacher never spoke to me except through the failing grade on my report card. I flunked ninth-grade pre-algebra then was passed along in tenth grade but learned nothing. This is where the journey of my mathematical skills ended. I stopped learning in fifth grade.
Senior year of high school I panicked. I knew I needed to attend college but had no idea how to get there. I did not personally know any college graduates, didn’t have a mentor to ask advice and there was no such thing as to Google, “How to get into college.” I will never forget how the community college counselor looked at me. It was a mixture of pity and disgust. I received no help, no direction, and no encouragement.
While raising three children and a husband, my desire to complete a college degree never ceased. I finally finished my nursing prerequisites then went to the counselor’s office for a triple check on my application packet. My excitement level filled the room. It was finally my time. While reviewing my paperwork, the advisor’s face turned from a smile to shock. My previous counselor had made a mistake and I could not apply for nursing school for two more years. I turned green. My head spun. I couldn’t hear the profuse apology as the administrator came into the room to console the sobbing student. All the work, all the plans resulted in educational rejection yet again.
In 2015, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I could not advance to a leadership role at work without a degree. When my children graduated high school, I could not say, “Follow me.” Life was passing me by and I was watching it. I had to finish college. It was no longer an option. Friends and coworkers recommended several colleges. One complicated application process left me confused and frustrated after two months on their merry-go-round. Another gave the distinct feeling I had been severely ripped off by a used car salesman. My questions remained unanswered by telephone-only advisors who offered online-only classes while urging me to sign on the dotted line. There had to be more; discouraged and unsatisfied, I explored one more college.
Katie Hansen was the academic advisor at the Fairfield campus of Brandman University when I stormed in the door. I brought no excitement and no hope. This was a business transaction. I needed to know exactly how many classes I needed to graduate, how long it would take and how much it would cost. She had 15 minutes to convince me why I should become a Brandman student or I would bolt out the door and stay academically ignorant the rest of my life. Katie answered all of my questions completely with poise, expertise and simplified the entire enrollment process. My entire academic plan laid on the desk in front of me. There was no question how to get there. I had peace. I was home. Brandman was the one I had been waiting for.
My first class was terrifying. After spending hours on my first paper, I was convinced I failed but Dr. Terry Curl provided a non-threatening, relaxed environment where it was comfortable to learn. Instructor Craig Courtemanche brought a wealth of information with real, relatable leadership experience. Dr. PJ Davis facilitated engaging team collaboration and communication. Dr. Monique Moton encouraged to reach for the academic stars. For all of my Brandman instructors, I am tremendously thankful.
In my wildest dreams, I never imagined I would be graduating today from Brandman University with a 4.0. The encouragement and support from my instructors motivate me to consider completing my master’s degree in organizational leadership.
This is my story and I am a Brandman University graduate.
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