Celebrating a long awaited goal.
Having not stepped foot on campus in over 10 years since she began her online degree at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC), 76-year-old Maryland Morris ’13, of Rancho Dominguez, Calif., was excited to be back at The Woods. Donned in her graduation gown and cap, she stood for pictures on the front steps of Guerin Hall before her long-awaited commencement ceremony on May 4, 2014.
After standing for a few pictures, Maryland quickly took the cap off of her head and ushered for her husband, Bill, to step closer as she placed the cap on his head.
“He has been my biggest supporter,” she said, smiling. “I just want him to know how this feels.”
Maryland began her first course in the Woods Online program in February 2003. Although she already had an associate’s degree in certified occupational therapy, which she had obtained about 25 years earlier, it had always been her goal to achieve a bachelor’s degree. However, another goal took priority, and that was to not have any student debt upon graduation.
“Getting my bachelor’s was something that I always wanted to do,” Maryland said. “I didn’t do it sooner because I didn’t want to have a standing bill when I finished. That was my ultimate goal to get my degree and also have it paid in full.”
To achieve both of her goals, Maryland typically only took one class at a time, often while also working one or two jobs. But money wasn’t the only obstacle that she had to overcome.
“I was nervous about getting my degree online at first,” said Maryland. “I knew I wasn’t that good with computers, but there was no other way I could do it … with working, I couldn’t sit in a class.”
Determined to make it work, Maryland got help from friends and family members, and never hesitated to call SMWC for help. She also used online tutoring through Woods Online for a few of the more challenging courses in her degree program.
With her tenacity and will to aspire higher, Maryland achieved her goal and graduated from Woods Online with a bachelor’s degree in applied science: applications in occupational therapy in July 2013. Even more remarkable, she did so with absolutely no student debt.
“I’m a goal person,” Maryland said. “I always have a goal in mind.”
So, what is Maryland’s next big adventure?
“I don’t know. I’ve been thinking about learning sign language … or Spanish. We’ll see about that,” she said. “Or maybe both! Who knows?”