Terry Stacey ’09 and her husband wanted to play pool in the Sadler Center Wednesday night, but at first the desk attendant didn’t believe she was a student.
“The guy at the desk said, ‘So, I need some ID.’ He didn’t know exactly how to phrase it because he didn’t know who I was,” Stacey, who is visibly older than the typical College of William and Mary student, said. “‘So, are you faculty?’ ‘No.’ ‘So, are you alumni?’ ‘No, not yet, but close.’”
Stacey, a proud grandmother of two, is among the first group of co-enrolled students to graduate from the College.
In the co-enrollment program, students at Virginia community colleges can receive an automatic transfer acceptance to the College after fulfilling several stringent requirements, including completing an associate’s degree with a minimum 3.6 GPA. The students then phase into full-time schedules and eventually graduate with a bachelor’s degree from the College.
Stacey married when she was 20 and said she devoted herself fully to being a wife and mother. She worked at home during the ’90s doing word processing, typing up resumes and term papers for college students.
“I just didn’t really think about college until I suddenly realized one day my daughter was a senior in high school, and I’m going to have to go back to work, and being a secretary is not going to cut it anymore,” Stacey said. She enrolled in an accounting course at Thomas Nelson Community College and eventually used the co-enrollment program to transfer to the College.
Earl McKenzie ’10 has a similar story of how he came to college later in life.
He said he was not disciplined enough for college when he was younger, so he floated from job to job before joining the military. Eventually, he applied to become a helicopter pilot, an experience he said made him realize the value of setting and achieving goals. McKenzie retired from the Army several years ago and began considering what he could do.
“I decided I was going to go back to school, and I wanted to be a writer. I actually always wanted to be a writer since the ninth grade, but I never pursued it because my English skills were so poor,” he said. “So I just told myself ‘Well, if I’m ever going to do it, now is the time.’ If I didn’t do it then, I wasn’t going to be a writer.”
Now McKenzie is an English major. He plans to earn his master’s of fine arts in creative writing after graduating in 2010.
Not all of the co-enrollment students are as old as other students’ parents. Laura Roche-Villarreal ’09 moved to the United States in 2001 after graduating high school.
She spent several years working and traveling before beginning classes at Tidewater Community College and eventually co-enrolling at the College.
“I have struggled. To be honest, I have to work really hard,” she said. “[Nevertheless], it just has worked out so well.”
Roche-Villarreal, an international relations major, said she plans on earning a master’s degree in economics.
Many of the co-enrollment students met during their campus orientations, but several of them, including
Roche-Villarreal and Stacey, bonded after taking a university seminar — the transfer equivalent of a freshman seminar — on citizenship.
They may be older than typical students, but many who co-enroll are just as active in campus life.
Stacey, a business major, said she has sculpted, acted and danced with “traditionally aged” undergraduate students in art and kinesiology courses.
She even enrolled in Adventure Games, a kinesiology course that incorporates high-rope acrobatics.
Stacey especially enjoyed Convocation.
“I was so glad to be a part of that. I was so glad to go through the Wren, and I was glad to be a part of the audience — the screaming, hollering maniacs,” she said.
Her participation in the Convocation tradition highlights Stacey’s inclusive attitude toward college life.
“I act like I’m supposed to be there. I made up my mind when I came here that William and Mary was not going to change for me because this is a dormitory school, and it is a school of young people,” Stacey said.
“I enjoy that age. You all are funny. I mean, I’m here. I need to just make the most of it and not try and buck and make waves. Just go along with the flow, you know?”
Ultimately, Stacey said she and other co-enrolled students bring new understanding to the College’s student body.
“We know what the community college scene is like and what the difference in difficulty between community college and William and Mary is,” she said. “I think that the experiences we bring with us add to the depth and diversity here on campus, and I really hope that they keep on doing this.”