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Roberta Beach JacksonThere's No Business Like School Business

By Roberta Beach Jacobson

Without question, my parents assumed I'd be going away to college. They bugged me about it all the time and took me to see various campuses, but I had no interest. I was an average high school student, looking forward to graduating with the class of 1970, but most of my thoughts were about love. My boyfriend and I wanted to get married. He was my number one priority. I was 18 when he and I tied the knot. My parents, very upset, refused to attend the wedding.

My Mr. Right turned out to be Mr. Wrong and a divorce followed. Not knowing what to do with my life, I joined the army and left for assignment in Europe. I was 21. Living in Germany was an adventure and I traveled across the near by borders every chance I could. Weekends I would be in Paris or Amsterdam. As luck would have it, I met up with another boyfriend, a felllow soldier. Things went fine until one day he got shipped to the states, to the Pentagon of all places. I felt abandoned. So I signed up for a night course with the University of Maryland. I didn't even care much what the subject was, I just wanted something to keep me busy in the evenings.

Starting college was not in my plans or something I had put much thought into doing. It just sort of happened. One day I saw a UMD poster and it happened to be registration time and so I just filled out the forms and suddenly I found myself in a sociology course.

Not along after my course ended, I was shipped to the States myself. My boyfriend and I met up in Virginia and we got married in Maryland. Just like that.

The education center was one of the places I had to stop by to get signed into my new post and I somehow met up with a very enthusiastic guidance counselor. She explained how I could get credit for my military schooling aqnd earn a quick degree - an accredited degree.

I went for it. She was right. The deal was, all I had to do was to complete seven courses (21 quarter hours) to meet the residence requirement of the college. In between I took all sorts of no-cost tests (such as CLEPs) for even more credits. Was it a stroke of luck? In the part of Illinois where I grew up, we started foreign language classes in fifth grade. I was pretty good in my seven years of studying Spanish, which I had through 11th grade, and was able to test out at college level via CLEP tests. Go figure.

The First Degree.
Once my military schools were figured in, I found out I would have enough quarter hours to graduate. By day, I was a soldier in an engineering unit. Evenings, I rushed through my course work in just three quarters (pregnant the whole time). The commencement ceremony for Northern Virginia Community College was conveniently scheduled a day before my due date. It was 1976, a full six years after my high school graduation, and I had an A.S. (Associate of Science).

And the Second Degree?
With a baby, a full-time military job and a husband, you'd think I would have had enough going on in my life. Hard as it was to fathom, I found I missed the challenges of my night courses. I missed the interaction with fellow students. I was ready to study! So I signed up for a weekend course schedule on base and slowly completed a dozen courses (36 semester hours) in human resources management. Soon after that we found out we were headed back to Germany. I had made the exact residency requirement and was told my degree would be mailed to me overseas come commencement time. Yippee! So off we went across the pond, baby in tow, the start of another European adventure. Nobody could suggest my life was boring and routine.

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