Student takes fast track to finish degree with WSU Complete
Going to college didn’t seem to fit into Sheree Wilkerson’s life. After starting and stopping a couple of times, she found that the WSU Complete program at Wichita State was just right for her.
In fact, Wilkerson is the first student to graduate from the WSU Complete program, which started in fall 2010. And she did it at a pace few will equal, taking 77 hours in just over a year and earning her bachelor’s degree in business administration at the end of summer classes 2011.
WSU Complete is an adult degree completion program that enables students to get a degree by completing coursework in eight-week classes on evenings and weekends. These are the same courses and programs as on the main campus, but they are scheduled in a way that allows working adults to continue with their professional and family obligations and still return to school.
After briefly attending Auburn University, Wilkerson moved to Wichita to be near her fiancee’s family.
“I kept wanting to finish my degree, but life happened,” said Wilkerson. Instead of going to school, she and her husband were busy working and raising children.
'A perfect example'
It was the death of her grandmother in 2010 that led Wilkerson to re-evaluate her life and her goal of earning a college degree.
“It really shook me, as she was a strong influence on my life,” said Wilkerson. “I took stock and realized I wasn’t where I wanted to be with career and goals. She’d been a huge proponent of education and I’d also felt like I needed to finish this in order to fulfill what she wanted for us as well.
“But mostly, I needed to get this done and realized that I can’t always keep putting things off or one day there won’t be another day to put it off to,” said Wilkerson.
Wilkerson returned to school in a big way. She took 10 credit hours in summer 2010, 27 in fall 2010, 21 in spring 2011 and 19 credit hours in summer 2011, earning her degree and graduating magna cum laude.
“The only reason I could do it was because of WSU Complete,” said Wilkerson. “I was able to knock out classes in eight-week chunks, which meant there was little overlap, so I really only had a couple of classes running at one given time.
“I did a lot of pre-sessions, too. In a traditional program, I don’t even know if you could possibly take 27 hours.”
Susan Norton, director of satellite campuses and workforce development at WSU, marvels at Wilkerson’s drive.
“We have a few more students who will finish the WSU Complete program this December, but because she was so driven and took so many hours at once, she is the exception.
“I think Sheree is a great example of how having programs like this available help former students come back to the university and finish their academic goals. Many times life gets in the way of original plans and, although many of our returning adult students’ circumstances have changed, their drive and determination make these types of successes possible. Sheree is a perfect example of why WSU Complete was started. I couldn’t be happier for her accomplishment,” said Norton.
Going back to college was invigorating to Wilkerson and she enjoyed learning new things.
“There were some truly awesome teachers whose teachings stuck with me in more than just a career capacity,” she said.
Wilkerson said it was easier for her to be more focused on getting an education as a returning adult student.
“I did not have the super-active social needs of a traditional student,” said Wilkerson. “I don’t party. I don’t drink. I don’t hang out. I was always good at taking tests, and that held me in good stead. Studying was something I’ve always just been able to do very well. A lot of it was at night after the kids went to bed. And I did my homework with the kids, which they thought was hilarious.
“It also helps that as a nontraditional student, I have actually experienced a lot of the things that were discussed in class. In my career as a Realtor, I had learned a good many of the principles we discussed. I had seen some of the situations in person. That made it much easier to study, because most of the material seemed very relevant since it related to what I’d been doing in my life.”
Even so, Wilkerson admits that it would have been nearly impossible to complete her degree so quickly without a good support system and a dedicated husband.
Not slowing down
Life for Wilkerson and her family hasn’t slowed just yet. They recently moved to Alabama to be near her family. The Wilkersons have three children, 8, 5 and 3, and the oldest is autistic.
Wilkerson also has been talking with Make-A-Wish Foundation about an internship to follow her dreams of getting into a nonprofit organization.
While some graduates are more than happy to have college in their rearview mirror and get on with life, Wilkerson said: “I am really considering a master’s or second bachelor’s degree. I really enjoyed learning, meeting new people and expanding my mind.
“Truly, though, I kinda wish I was taking at least one class right now. I had gotten into the groove.”