13 years ago, Lancaster native Shanece Bowman ‘20, began working toward her goal of attaining a college degree. She took the path many of her peers take: right after high school, she set off to college. But her journey was cut short unexpectedly. “I came home after one semester,” she says. “It just wasn’t the right thing for me at the time.”
This began her on again, off again relationship with higher education. She knew she wanted to finish what she started, but obstacles kept cropping up: shortly after she began school again, her mother became ill. Bowman dropped out to help take care of her mother as her health declined. After she took a step back from her education, Bowman became a Certified Nurses Assistant and worked in healthcare. Still, she dreamed of going back to school.
Sadly, her mother passed away, and shortly after that, Bowman learned she was pregnant. “I held on strong to my ability to be resilient,” she says.
Eventually, when life settled a bit, Bowman earned a well-deserved associate degree from HACC. But she still wanted to go further. She learned about Millersville University’s online degree in social work in 2018 and it seemed like the timing was finally right.
We chatted with Bowman, now a graduate of MU, and asked her to tell us about her time in the program, how she balanced it all, and what’s she up to today.
1. What were some of the barriers that made it difficult for you to complete your degreethe first couple of times you attended college?
Something that made it difficult for me was trying to balance working full–time while also raising my son. It was difficult for me to find time to be a student on top of balancing work and life.
2. What made it different this time around?
The online social work degree at Millersville University allowed me the flexibility I needed to complete my assignments on my own time, whether it was in the morning or evening. I was able to dedicate time for school and still be a mother and continue to work.
3. Why was a degree in social work the right program for you?
This program was right for me because it . . .catered to students who already have their associate degree. It allowed me to pick up where I left off, and transferring my credits that already applied towards a bachelor of social work was a bonus. I didn’t have to worry about repeating courses I had already taken.
4. Where there any professors at MU that encouraged you?
I have to say the entire social work department was extremely supportive and encouraging. Dr. Leonora Foels and Dr. Bertha Saldana DeJesus were definitely mentors to me throughout the program. They were both there whenever I felt less confident in myself.
5. Did your cohort support each other? How?
Absolutely! I wouldn’t have made it through the program without my cohort. We had a running group chat from the start. Even now, we use that to text one another not only about our courses, but our personal lives as well. We pushed one another to stay in the race, and we supported each other throughout the process.
6. How would you describe your experience in the online social work program at MU?
I felt a sense of community, like a family per say! I never felt forgotten about, which is something that can happen in some online classes. We were integrated into the Social Work Department and although we couldn’t be as active on campus as we wanted, we were still a part of the team and given opportunities to participate in learning opportunities.
7. What advice do you have for fellow adult learners who think they’re ready to go back to school?
My advice would be to go for it. The support and understanding for non-traditional students is growing. Hopefully you find a program, as I did, that is tailored towards adult learners. You’ll feel a sense of hope that you are capable of accomplishing your goals.
8. Where are you working now?
I work at the Lancaster Osteopathic Health Foundation where I am a Programs Manager. We have seven programs that all work toward our mission of elevating the mental health of children and youth in Lancaster County.
9. Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I just can’t say thank you enough to Millersville University and the Social Work department for developing a program that allowed me to finish what I started 13 years ago. I wish the best to those who are enrolled in the program and to all students who have a similar story to mine. It truly is never too late to accomplish your goals.