“I feel like I’ve been waiting so long for this,” said Georgina Waller. “Education has always been important for my family.” After 15 years of dealing with interruptions in her education, working multiple jobs to support herself and her family while taking classes whenever she could, Georgina is set to graduate in August with her bachelor’s degree in organizational behavior.
Born and raised in the Philippines, Georgina and her three sisters went to excellent schools. Their father attended a prestigious university and wanted his daughters to get a good education. “The Philippines is highly Westernized,” she said, noting that most of her classes there were taught in English.
When Georgina was 14, her father passed away, leading to financial hardship and ultimately causing her to stop out of college after one year.
Georgina attempted to go back to school multiple times, but her first priority was her younger sister’s education. When her sister entered her sophomore year in college and other family members could help support her, Georgina enrolled at a community college. “I finally had the chance to focus on my own education,” she said.
Even while taking classes and working full-time, Georgina managed to start figure skating lessons. “To me, it is my outlet—I just love gliding on the ice.” Skating is expensive, she acknowledged, so she took lessons only when she could afford it. “I felt like it was something that I did for myself,” she said.
At 28, Georgina earned an Associate of Arts in psychology and graduated with high honors. But she still wanted a bachelor’s degree.
She attended an open house with Immaculata’s College of Adult Professional Studies (CAPS) and was drawn to the friendly, helpful staff. The tuition was affordable compared to other institutions she considered, and the online program offerings would give her enough flexibility to keep her two part-time jobs. “More importantly, IU is a Catholic institution whose goal of service and academic excellence was in tune with my personal values.”
“I believe that being able to put in my resume that I am working on my bachelor’s degree and am so close to graduating has helped me land interviews,” Georgina said.
She recently accepted a job at a state university’s advising, career, and disability services department. In this role, she has had plenty of opportunities to use her newfound knowledge and skills from her classes in conflict resolution, cultural expression and performance development and training. Her job responsibilities include managing two student workers, and although she has managed employees in other jobs, she is better prepared now. “I feel better equipped to encourage them,” she said. “It’s the difference between a boss and a leader.”
Georgina also wants to be a leader and an example to other adult learners. “I want to continue working in higher education so that I can lift other students up and encourage them to do what they can to graduate in spite of the difficulties they face as students,” she said.
With her own education, Georgina said, “I was determined to make the most out of it. I didn’t want to just pass a class; I wanted to do it well. So with that, I wanted to absorb every lesson from each week … It was tiring, physically and mentally, at times. But I never really thought about not pushing through with it.” She adds that her husband is supportive, joking that he helps her not to overwhelm herself.
“I wanted to make my parents proud,” Georgina said, adding that her mom is relieved that all four of her daughters now have a college education.
Perhaps the discipline of skating—gliding ahead, falling, having to get up and keep going over and over—has formed Georgina and strengthened her resolve to finish her degree. “It’s a big dream of mine to accomplish,” she said. “I appreciate the lessons and the journey in spite of how challenging it may be sometimes.”