When Barb Rogers '11 walked in Commencement exercises May 22 as the Class of 2011 val-edictorian, it was with a mix of emotions: Pride in earning her bachelor's degree, at age 54. Joy in knowing that she had set an example for her now-grown daughters. And ambivalence at leaving a campus that has come to feel like a second home.
Rogers spent eight years in the Weekend Program, gradually assuming more leadership roles there while continuing to work full time as a child-care provider. A dedicated volunteer, she's also served on the Weekend Student Advisory Board and worked hard to involve more non-traditional students in the life of St. Catherine University.
Her efforts earned her this year's Mary Alice Muellerleile Student Leadership Award — named for one of the original planners of the Weekend Program.
What are Weekend Program students like? There's no typical Weekend student. You can't peg us. I've met women from their early 20s to 65, which creates great depth in our classes. A lot of women in the program have young children, but not all have children. Some are married, some are single moms. Practically every Weekend student I've met has a full-time job.
How well do they readjust to the classroom? They value their education, and I think the environment at St. Kate's fosters their desire to do well. One comment we get from professors a lot: "Oh, I don't have to remind you guys to hand in your homework. You just do it, because you're responsible." Weekend students follow through. We're here because we want to be here, not just because it's the thing to do — the next step in life.
You entered the Weekend Program in 2003. Why has it taken so long for you to graduate? I started when my younger daughter was in sixth grade. She was self-sufficient enough that I could devote time to schooling again, and it worked well. We were able to do our homework together. I was a good role model.
But I often took just one class per trimester. I could do a good job with the class and still handle family and work responsibilities. A lot of Weekend students take two to three classes at a time. I don't know how they do it. Weekend students are amazing.
You majored in occupational science with a minor in theology. How do they relate? Everything we do is an occupation, not just our career or paid work. Self-care, family care, going to school, having social relationships, a spiritual life — everything is an occupation. This is an interdisciplinary degree. It examines how we fit it all together to make a meaningful life.
Has it been difficult to get Weekend students more involved on campus? One focus in my major was on volunteerism. I see that as central to a healthy life. Through my research I had found out about the Center for Community Work and Learning. This past year we did two civic-engagement projects with Weekend students: an extended project for the Brain Injury Association of Minnesota and a one-time event at Feed My Starving Children.
How has this experience affected your family? My daughters both saw how much I value education and learning. I think that has made them want to become lifelong learners, too — to take their studies seriously and be curious. Also, I've become a more efficient and confident person. I've brought issues from school into the family, such as immigration from my "Global Search for Justice" class.
The downside, obviously, is taking time away from my family. I've not been able to do as many social or recreational things as I'd like.
So, what has kept you going? I've just felt like, all along, God was leading me to come here. When I didn't know what courses to take, things would just fall into place. Now I'm at a point where I should know what I want to do with the rest of my life, but I don't know. I want to be of service and help people. I'm going to have to put some work into it, but I'm not worried about my next step on the journey. It will come, in its time.
What are you taking away from St. Kate's, besides your degree? I'm not the same person — obviously you wouldn't be eight years later — but I credit St. Kate's for most of my growth. I've been pushed to do things I never would have done, like speak in front of groups.
— Amy Gage