03/16/2021 10:00 am
Susan Schmitz raised two sons and saw them graduate from college. Then it was her turn.
At age 69, Susan Schmitz graduated from Rockford University in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in management studies. Unlike many adults who return to complete a degree, Susan didn’t do it for career advancement. In fact, she retired six months before graduating. Instead, Susan got a degree for the best reason of all: herself.
“I wanted to see it through,” she said. “As my sons earned their degrees, I wanted my opportunity.”
Susan grew up in England, at a time when college wasn’t a popular option for many women. She focused instead on raising her family and didn’t consider college until she was introduced to some flower arranging classes at the College of DuPage. She took enough courses for a certificate program, then continued to complete an associate degree in ornamental horticulture.
Susan moved to Rockford after remarrying and, as a newcomer, was looking for an opportunity to meet people. She learned about the flexible class schedules and variety of student backgrounds at Rockford University, then quickly decided it was a good fit for her.
For the next five years, Susan took classes at Rockford University while working a full-time job in human resources for a group of greenhouses and also supervising the care of her mother back in England. She credits the school’s flexibility with allowing her to pursue all of those endeavors at once.
“If I had to fly to England, I could time it between class offerings and not have to take off an entire year,” she said.
For Susan, learning about management while simultaneously living it through her job was fascinating.
“It was very interesting to me to learn more about my field,” she said. “It definitely opens your eyes to different viewpoints.”
Now with a bachelor’s degree behind her, Susan has found a passion for learning she didn’t know she had. She is taking time now to relax and enjoy working in her garden but entertains the idea of completing a master’s degree in her 70s.
“The world is open to me at the moment,” Susan said. “I’m just keeping my options open and seeing what comes my way.”
This article was originally published in Rockford University’s alumni magazine, Catalyst.
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