McFadden earns degree, makes dream come true

Oct 16, 2003, vol. 28, no. 4
By Diane Luckow

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Colleen McFadden personifies determination. It has taken her almost 30 years but when she crossed the convocation podium on Oct. 2 with her bachelor of general studies degree, she accomplished a lifelong dream.

Unable to afford university after high school, McFadden settled into clerical work but continued to pursue learning, enrolling in night courses and correspondence courses at both BCIT and Athabasca university. Yet the possibility of earning a degree continued to elude the single mother until she learned of SFU's integrated studies degree. The three-year part-time program is designed for adult students who ordinarily wouldn't be able to attend university due to admission or registration restrictions. Its flexible admissions policy recognizes and informally credits participants' work experience.

Still, pursuing the program proved to be difficult. After failing the pre-requisite math test three times, she persuaded program director Ruth Price and mathematics instructor Malgorzata Dubiel to accept her into the credit math course by promising to spend extra time on math. In fact, with help from a math tutor and fellow students, she earned an A in the course.

McFadden's dead-end career path as a human resources assistant was a key factor in keeping her focused on obtaining a degree.

“I wasn't going anywhere,” she says. Yet once she was in the program, she applied for three management-level jobs and was offered two of them, accepting a job as manager of administration for the Telecommunication Workers' union. “I believe part of my success in switching jobs was because I was enrolled in the degree program,” she says. “The employers were looking for some education and being enrolled in the program demonstrated that I was willing to do that.”

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