Student Spotlight

Younger or older makes no difference in finding a place at Brandman

June 16, 2016 by Brandman University
Mayo and malm

Jan Mayo (left) and Kendall Malm represent the span of ages of students who graduated this year.

Watch the parade of graduates at a Brandman commencement and the first thing you’re likely to notice is the diversity, not just in gender and race, height and weight, but also in age.

We caught up with two who walked in the Southern Commencement. They’re both psychology majors, one from the Santa Clarita campus and the other from the nearby Antelope Valley campus.

They share an enthusiasm for the courses they took, the professors who not only taught them but offered support and encouragement and staff members who guided their academic paths.

And what might separate them in other circumstances, didn’t when it came to earning a bachelor’s degree: one is 20 and the other 74.

Jan Mayo

Jan Mayo, Brandman ages

Jan Mayo at the Southern Commencement in May.

“It’s my time.” Jan Mayo raised two children and saw her family grow to include three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. She started school in the ‘60s. Life interfered. She re-started school. Life got complicated.

When she moved from Los Angeles to the Antelope Valley, she happened upon Brandman University and learned that those various credits earned over the years put her within sight of earning that longed-for degree.

“I just couldn’t see myself retiring,” said Mayo who had worked in the private school sector with children from kindergarten through fourth grade. “I’ve ushered so many students (including her children and grandchildren) into university work and watched them grow. It’s Jan’s turn now,” she remembers thinking.

Mayo will be the first to tell you it wasn’t completely smooth sailing. “I was challenged quite a bit, particularly by the computer.”

While she sometimes had to turn to grandchildren, classmates and Antelope Valley staff for help with the technical side of things, the learning part was pure joy. Even instructors who frightened her at first proved to be allies. “No one ever questioned, ‘is this what you want to do?’” she said.

While she didn’t tend to mention her specific age to most of her classmates, she knew that they knew she was older, often because of references she made to events that happened before some were even born.

“I don’t think people knew until I started telling people at the graduation. One of the best compliments was when someone told me, ‘I was really fortunate to have you in class with us. There’s so much to learn from you. You’re so forthright in coming forward with what you know.’”

What she knows now is that she’s ready to start another chapter of her life. She still has a few more credits to complete to officially earn her bachelor’s degree, but she’s moving ahead on opening a school with her granddaughter for preschoolers through age 6. “I want to put children on the right path so they love learning and reading,” she said. She also wants to pursue a master’s.

She said the thought that she might be “too old” to go back to school herself never really crossed her mind. “A lot of things happen that you’re not prepared for (in life) but there’s always a pathway.” For Mayo, that pathway led to Brandman.

Kendall Malm

Kendall Malm, Brandman ages

Kendall Malm striking a pose for her family after the Southern Commencement in May.

The majority of Brandman students fall in the 26-35 age range. So when a popular fashion blogger posted that she just graduated from Brandman at age 20, we needed to know more.

Kendall Malm, whose blog posts and Instagram account have earned her enough followers to attract the attention of the clothing company Billabong, was taking classes at the College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita when a classmate mentioned Brandman University. Malm discovered she could complete her general education course at the community college while simultaneously working toward her bachelor’s in psychology at Brandman’s Santa Clarita site on the same campus.

Malm wanted to stay near her family (her grandmother had Alzheimer’s disease) but was willing to work year-round to complete her degree.

“My grandmother passed away almost a year ago. It was a big struggle for me, but I was there with her. I would sit on her bed and do my homework. I’m glad I could be there for her when she need us the most. She was a big reason I went to college. I did it for her,” said Malm.

About the same time she started college, Malm began her namesake blog. “When I started, I didn’t put that much time into it. It basically was for me. About eight months ago, I started to put more time in.”

She was taking a photography course at the College of the Canyons as one of her electives which not only improved her own photography skills but introduced her to photography students eager to help. Her Brandman classes helped as well.

“It surprised me how much I learned about myself (by taking psychology classes),” she said. That self-knowledge has helped her make her style statements more personal. The blog at first was mainly photos. Now she takes the time to write about why she likes what she likes.

Her Brandman courses also gave her more confidence in writing and speaking in front of a class. Like Mayo, she can name several professors who inspired her and were available when she needed extra help.

Malm says some of her friends questioned her choice of colleges, suggesting classes would be easier. She vigorously disagrees. The coursework was challenging, and she was pushed to be a more critical thinker, something she appreciates. What she thinks she got that some of her peers may not be getting is personal attention while still being treated like an adult.

This summer, Malm plans to take a break from school, devote more time to her blog and partaking in one of her favorite activities – shopping with her mother, who has also been perfecting her photo skills to help with the blog. She thinks there might be more school in the form of a master’s degree in her future but she’s also exploring what she can do with that quickly, but hard-earned bachelor’s degree.

Favorite adjunct faculty members mentioned by Mayo and Malm: David LaBat, Gloria Cruz, Ron Ball,
Joke Carberry, Luis Ramirez. Jan Mayo also mentioned the Leatherby Libraries staff dedicated to Brandman.

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