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Organizational Leadership & Learning

Student Completes Undergraduate Degree and Goes to Law School: 1600 Miles and 35 Years later

April 16, 2013 in Spring 2013

Where do you go when you’ve worked full-time for 26 years, partially completed your college education, and find you’ve reached the limits of your career? For Lisa Matthews, the answer was UofL’s Bachelor’s Degree in Workforce Leadership—a program sixteen-hundred miles from her family’s home in Utah.

Lisa Matthews started college when she was seventeen, attended for a year, and then left to raise a family.  While at the time, Lisa had no idea of how or when she’d complete her degree, she vowed to herself and her father, who was ill and in the hospital, that one day she would finish, and thirty-five years later she did just that.

Eight years after leaving college, Lisa took two computer-programming courses so that she could apply for a promotion at work.  She got the promotion and several more after that.  Ten years later, she began taking one course per semester because she was determined to complete her degree.

Over the years, Lisa became restless as her interests shifted towards training and employment law, but she didn’t know how to change careers after working full-time for 26 years.  In 2009, Lisa’s family was contemplating a move from Utah to her husband’s hometown of Louisville.

When Lisa learned that our undergraduate program offers a unique feature that allows students to transfer their previous coursework and convert their many years of knowledge and informal educational experience into credit hours, she told her husband they must move to Louisville.  In May 2010, Lisa took her first class at the University of Louisville.  She said enrolling in our bachelor’s program was one of the best decisions she has ever made.

Over a year later, Lisa graduated and earned the Malcom S.  Knowles Award in Workforce Leadership, which honors an undergraduate “who excels both academically and professionally by successfully integrating prior learning into the program.”

Lisa found the coursework extremely relevant: “Everything I learned was useful because I could relate it to the past and apply it in the future.  It allowed me to see things from a new perspective, and gave me ideas that can be used in the home, community, school, work, and in all aspects of life.”  Dr. Matt Bergman said Lisa’s “level of focus and dedication to her studies is evident in every conversation you have with her.  She has a gift for synthesizing information from theory and adapting it to real world practice.”

In her Adult Learning and Diversity course, Lisa learned not only how adults learn, but also how she learns.  In Project Management, Lisa chose applying to UofL’s Louis D.  Brandeis School of Law as her semester project.  She was accepted there and at four other Law Schools.  She started the law program, where she is the oldest student in her class, one week after graduating with her bachelor’s degree.  Lisa states that having her four-year degree is “everything.” Without it, she felt she had reached the limit of where she could go or accomplish in her career.  It also signified the fulfillment of the promise she made to her father.

Dr. Ann Herd said Lisa’s “commitment to lifelong learning and development, and her drive and resilience in pursuing her goals, serve as a reminder to all of us that we can strive to achieve our potential through our educational, work, and life experiences.  Lisa is an inspiration.”  Dr. Bergman explained that “Lisa exemplifies every attribute of what it means to be an outstanding adult learner.  Her persistence and commitment have been a great model for other adults.”  Bergman added that her example pushed him to strive for excellence in his work and studies as he completed his doctoral degree.

Lisa wants to use her story to let others know they can do it too, and that the program gives students the opportunity to translate their knowledge and skills in a way that “allows you to see the end, that you can do this, that you can accomplish your goal.”  Faculty member, Roger Buskill said that Lisa’s is “a wonderful story to tell.  Our program came along at the right time in her life to help her in her life-long learning journey.”

Lisa is enjoying the law program.  The professors are excellent and the experience is very challenging.  She believes that being an adult learner gives her a unique perspective to the study of law.  She wants to use her education to influence management and address workplace climate issues.

This article was written by Christine Wiggins-Romesburg, SPHR, Graduate Research Assistant and Doctoral Student in Organizational Leadership and Learning.