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Wings Program Helps Adult Learners Take Flight

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A strong woman – and a strong adult education program – can always become stronger.

With the August announcement of its new Wings program, Meredith College has renewed its commitment to adult learning. This single-word name, said President Jo Allen, symbolizes the power that every woman has within to elevate herself.

Historically a leader in higher learning for non-traditional-aged women, “Meredith has served this population well through the years, and we’ve recommitted to – and renewed our emphasis on – adult education,” said Allen.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse, more than one-third of U.S. undergraduate students are 25 and older. The sharpened focus on this population through Wings will help Meredith continue its adult learning legacy – and meet the needs of today’s students.

Now more than ever, “Meredith should be uppermost in the minds of all women who seek higher learning as a route to a better future,” Allen said, “We know it makes a difference in their personal and professional lives, as well as in the lives of their families, communities, and our world.”

A Familiar Refrain: “Meredith changed my life”

Since 1972, more than 2,000 non-traditional-aged women have earned bachelor’s degrees through Meredith’s adult learning initiative, known most recently as the 23+ Program. These women have included – and will continue to include through the Wings program – the following:

First-time college students who didn’t enroll in college after completing high school

Women completing bachelor’s degrees they’d previously started working toward

College graduates seeking second bachelor’s degrees

Many alumnae have credited Meredith with changing their lives, said Allen.

“The stories of the women who have gone through our adult education programs often are quite powerful,” she said. “For various reasons, many delayed their own pursuit of a college education until much later in life – often with pretty serious self-doubts about their abilities.”

Others initially started college but had to stop, Allen said, while some already held college degrees but decided to pursue degrees or majors more conducive to helping them achieve their goals.

“For each of these women, the special attention Meredith places on scheduling, learning styles, goals, time management, and intellectual aptitude has made all the difference in their success,” said Allen. “Meredith is, has always been, and will continue to be committed to the success of all women.”

Stay Tuned as Wings Prepares to Take Off

“This fall we’ll be holding information sessions for the community to tell them about Meredith’s renewed focus on adult education,” says Provost Matthew Poslusny. “And beginning in the spring 2015 semester, we’ll start doing things like increasing the number of classes we offer in alternative formats and at more unconventional times.”

“Meredith’s adult-learning program will soon be going even stronger,” said Allen. “We will all be the beneficiaries of that strength.”

Want to know more about Wings?

Go to meredith.edu/adulteducation or call (919) 760-8581 to learn more about Wings, including the admissions process, options for financial assistance, and upcoming information sessions.

The stories that follow feature four women whose lives were transformed by their participation in Meredith’s Adult Education program.

Christie Bishop Barbee, ’83

Consultant and Former Lobbyist, Construction Industry
Completed first bachelor’s degree in religion at age 32Photo of Christie Bishop Barbbe, Class of 1983 standing outside with arm resting on rail

Christie Bishop Barbee first went to Meredith as part of the Class of 1973. She took a leave of absence during her junior year when she accepted a job offered by a political campaign for which she’d been working.

“I wasn’t able to return until I was married with two children under 4 years old,” said Barbee, who graduated the year her original class celebrated its tenth reunion. “My husband traveled in his job, so I was a one-woman show every Monday to Friday.”

She chose Meredith to finish her degree in religion (now called religious and ethical studies) for several reasons.

“I knew that Meredith is a great institution from my prior experience there and because my mother was a graduate,” said Barbee. “Not only does a Meredith degree represent a high-quality education and values I treasure, the College’s religion program is outstanding.”

The College’s flexibility and support for adult students was another deciding factor for Barbee.

After meeting with Anne Dahle, then-director of the 23+ Program, “I knew that Meredith was willing to work with me so I could get the courses I needed while managing the responsibilities of motherhood and running a home,” she said. “The support and encouragement from Anne and every one of my professors made all the difference in the world.”

Barbee has these words for non-traditional-aged women considering going – or going back – to college: “Don’t shortchange yourself; go to Meredith, where the mission is to educate women of all ages to make a difference in their communities and chosen fields,” she said. “No one will let you cut corners, but they will guide you toward your degree with an eye toward you as an individual and your goals.”

“You’ll not only find yourself in a community of strong women of all ages and cultural backgrounds, you’ll leave Meredith a stronger person than when you arrived, with enormous confidence in your ability to accomplish whatever you wish.”

Barbara Goodmon, ’94

President, A.J. Fletcher Foundation
First bachelor’s degree in history at age 50Photo of Barbara Goodmon, class of 1994 wearing light blue blouse

“A lot of women in my generation didn’t get to go to or finish college,” said Barbara Goodmon. “That wasn’t really a priority then, and some women were from environments that made going to college difficult.”

A “diploma RN” who worked as a pediatric nurse before her time at Meredith, Goodmon had never earned an undergraduate degree.

“In my mid-40s, I decided I wanted a college education. I started with one course and ended up staying five years to earn a bachelor’s degree at 50 years old,” recalled Goodmon, president of the A.J. Fletcher Foundation since 2003, wife, and mother of three.

“Every part of going to college was new to me because I simply hadn’t been exposed to so many things,” she said. “I didn’t even know how to type or use a computer when I started.”

Meredith’s adult education focus helped Goodmon get up to speed and achieve her goals.

“It was really about people like me – women who didn’t get the chance to go to college or finish a degree, adults who needed flexibility because they had jobs and families and things they needed to do,” she said.

“Meredith’s faculty and staff were very supportive of non-traditional-aged students, and I met many women whose stories were like mine, including some in their 70s and 80s.”

Goodmon’s years at Meredith were transformational, and she went on to earn a Master of Liberal Studies from NC State.

“It was a wonderful, life-altering experience that opened doors and led me to do things I’d never dreamed about – and may not have even known about,” she said. “Meredith provided an environment that enabled me to become well-educated, confident, and empowered. Getting my degree at Meredith truly changed my life, and that can happen for other women, too.”

Cullen Moser, ’07

Interior Designer, Hatteras Yachts
Second bachelor’s degree in interior design at age 27Photo of Cullen Moser, Class of 2007 standing and looking at fabric samples

After earning a degree in advertising from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1998 and deciding the field wasn’t for her, Cullen (Thompson) Moser wanted to pursue a second degree in interior design.

While researching the offerings of smaller schools near her then-Chapel Hill home, she discovered Meredith’s accredited interior design program.

“That accreditation was a must – not only for getting a quality education from a well-respected college, but because it’s something respected design firms look for in prospective employees,” said Moser, now an interior designer with Hatteras Yachts. “In addition, the thought of sitting in a classroom of 30 students or less was very appealing!”

Twenty-four when she started the program, Moser was “extremely worried about being the oldest person in the class, but soon learned that was not at all the case,” she recalled. “There were so many students just like me – in their mid- to upper 20s, going to Meredith for a second degree, working to support themselves – so I felt like I had a real support system.”

As for most other adult learners, that support – from both fellow students and faculty members – was invaluable to Moser.

“Working and going to school full-time wasn’t easy, but with Meredith’s variety of class times and accommodating professors, it wasn’t as stressful as it could have been,” she said. “It was those kinds of things that got me through my three years and made me appreciate how truly special Meredith is.”

Moser couldn’t be happier with what she gained by pursuing that second degree.

“My Meredith degree has given me the education and knowledge I need to be successful in my career, as well as the confidence to get to where I am today – something I didn’t necessarily have when I began the program,” she said. “It also has given me a wonderful network of women all over the country who are great mentors and friends.”

Beverly Mecum, ’15

Full-time student, part-time employee at Wake Tech Community College
Slated to earn first bachelor’s degree in art education at age 56Photo of Beverly Mecum, Class of 2015, in Art classsroom

Before coming to Meredith to pursue her first college degree, current student Bev Mecum weathered some of life’s most difficult challenges: an abusive marriage, divorce, and raising children alone.

Mecum also had two careers before coming to Meredith, first in probation and parole and then substance abuse counseling. For her third career, Mecum decided to combine her lifelong passion for art with her years of experience helping others by majoring in art education.

“When my son graduated from NC State, I decided it was my turn – especially since I think it’s important to model the expectations I have for my children,” she said. “My daughter, who graduated from Meredith in 2002, absolutely loved it and always encouraged me to go here.”

Mecum now understands why her daughter still speaks of her experience at Meredith as one of the greatest in her life.

“The faculty and staff have encouraged and supported me from the start,” she said. “From admissions, advising, and the registrar to accounting and financial assistance, people have always taken the time help me and been pleasant, helpful, and understanding.”

Even more important, Mecum said, are the new doors being opened to her.

“Meredith has given me many opportunities to participate in the art community by attending workshops, conferences, holding leadership positions, and being a member of several honor societies – opportunities that will really help me when I graduate,” she said.

“Networking is another of the great advantages to having a Meredith education. I’ve met more artists through the networking of the art education faculty than I ever would have on my own.”

Mecum is making the most of these opportunities; she curated her first art exhibition on Meredith’s campus – the 2014 Creative Spirit exhibit, which showcased work by Meredith’s faculty and staff.

“Whatever career I have in art, it will be because of the education and support I’m getting from Meredith,” she said. “This college has its finger on the pulse of the community, state, and in many cases, the nation.”

Strong Story/Bev Mecum   https://youtu.be/oUXMRe2DYHU

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of Meredith Magazine.

Melyssa Allen

News Director
316 Johnson Hall
(919) 760-8087
Fax: (919) 760-8330

allenme@meredith.edu