Most of us cannot imagine the impact on our lives that suddenly losing our eyesight would have. It’s harder still to imagine continuing our life’s work of achieving the goals we made for ourselves prior to such a loss. Amanda Skaggs, a 2011 graduate of the Bachelors of Science in Workforce Leadership program, did just that.
At the age of nineteen, Amanda began pursuing her goal of earning a college degree. She says that she has always been interested in human resources and employee development, and a college degree in this field would allow her to advance her career at Bell South. Amanda’s plan was interrupted when she lost her vision and was initially unable to secure the resources she needed to complete her coursework. Fortunately, AT&T (formerly Bell South) was able to provide a specialized computer program which allowed her to return to work within six months of losing her vision.
It was still a difficult transition. Amanda says that with the loss of her eyesight, she also lost confidence in herself and in her ability to complete day-to-day tasks. She had to rebuild her life and learn to do everything over again. Her family had to adjust, too. The shoes, book bags, and Nintendo controllers the children once innocently left on the floor suddenly became safety hazards.
But throughout this transition, she never gave up on her goal of earning a college degree. When the subject of her unfinished coursework came up over lunch with Deb Prather, alumni of both the OLL bachelor’s and master’s programs, Deb told her “you can do this.” It was just the boost Amanda needed to reach out to Matt Bergman, the program’s academic counselor.
Amanda was also wrestling with self-doubt that she associates with being an older student. “Maybe I’m too old,” she wondered to herself. “Maybe I’m not capable,” she asked. But with Matt’s guidance and encouragement, and the convenience of online learning, Amanda decided to take the plunge and enroll in classes—thirty years after beginning her freshman coursework. She dreaded her first writing assignment and shared her concerns with the instructor. She was elated with his feedback: “First of many A’s.” Turns out, it was.
Amanda retired from AT&T after thirty years, and is enjoying her retirement. She is active with other retirees and volunteers for Every1Reads, a Jefferson County Schools initiative to help students become better readers. She said that her volunteer work is inspired by her past inability to read, and that reading is the foundation for learning and enriching your life.
This article was written by Christine Wiggins-Romesburg, SPHR, Graduate Research Assistant and Doctoral Student in Organizational Leadership and Learning.