KOKOMO, Ind. — For many years, graduates participating in Indiana University Kokomo’s Commencement have been able to count on the “mom table,” staffed by Susan Wilson and Terri Butler, for bobby pins to keep a mortarboard in place, a breath mint, or any other little last-minute need.
In May 2019, though, someone else will have to monitor the table, because Wilson and Butler are graduating.
Wilson, administrative secretary in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, completed her Bachelor of General Studies (B.G.S.) in December, while Butler, administrative secretary for the School of Business, will finish hers in May.
“It’s a goal completed,” said Butler. “I wanted to go to college when I was younger, and then life choices made me take a detour. I watched my younger brother and sister get their degrees. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it, too.“
Wilson noted she is a first-generation college student, and she wanted to set an example for her children and grandchildren.
“I proved to myself I could do it,” she said. “This was a goal I’d had on my bucket list. I saw other co-workers earning their degrees, and it motivated me to keep going. Taking a class or two each semester, it just took some time.”
As work colleagues and students of similar age and experience, the two have supported one another since they started working on their degrees in 2010.
“It’s good to have someone with a similar story, to share the experience,” Wilson said. “It’s been very good support.”
Butler noted they’ve texted each other with comments and questions, or just to blow off steam from time to time.
“It’s been good for me to have Susan to bounce some ideas off,” she said.
When Butler began working at IU Kokomo in 1980, the campus consisted of the Main Building and the newly-constructed East Building. She’s seen the building of the Kelley Student Center, the Library, and Hunt Hall, and witnessed how technology has changed education. The student population has changed too, from mostly adult returning students to mostly traditional college-age students. All of this has grown her as a person.
“People say ‘you’ve been there all your life’, but the people have changed, and the technology has changed,” she said. “The world has changed. It’s not like I’ve stood still. I like being in this atmosphere. It keeps me current with what’s going on in the world.”
It wasn’t all just going to class. Butler and Wilson sang in the Cougar Choir and participated in theatre productions, getting a full student life experience.
Wilson said while her classmates are now so much younger, she’s never had trouble relating to them, and she’s enjoyed working with them.
“I haven’t felt old, even though sometimes you walk into a class and everyone is 20 or younger, and the instructor is younger than you, too,” she said. “In group projects, they don’t shy away from working with you, and they value your opinion. I can relate to them because I have adult children, and I can see where they’re coming from compared to my point in life.”
Their supervisors helped them make it possible to work full time on campus and go to school, and were accommodating with their schedules for classes and for travel with their classes. Butler went to England as part of the Innovation Symposium, and both women went on a hospitality and tourism class trip to tourist attractions in northern Indiana, part of the IU Kokomo Experience and You (KEY) program.
“I learned things with the Innovation Symposium that I will never forget,” Butler said. “I wouldn’t have had that experience if I hadn’t gone to IU Kokomo.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.