Tiffani accepted a once in a lifetime opportunity to pursue an acting career. Lisa left the state to support her husband’s ambitions. Brandi’s scholarship ran out. Different circumstances constantly force students to quit their formal higher education.
But students also return and this is when the U of U Return to the U program helps those who know it is finally time to finish the job. We are telling this story through the eyes of a recent graduate, Jamal Carter.
When Jamal first started at the U it was 1998. With finances straining and time going to jobs instead of classes, it was difficult to stay in school.
Due mostly to financial reasons, Jamal stepped out in 2000. He made another attempt to return in 2011, “and it was Professor Thomas Quinn who was very helpful in finally understanding Statistics. When I returned again in 2017 and needed Social Statistics, I knew who I wanted to learn from!” Even then, the choice between attending classes and earning an income made Jamal choose. He quit again and focused on his jobs.
Jamal’s work eventually took him to teach basketball at West High School and there he met U of U English Professor and Muse Project Director, Mark Matheson.
“He was and is a mentor and friend that has put me on track,” Jamal says. “He connected me with all the resources I needed to get back in school and finish what I started.”
Mark says, “I was struck by Jamal’s level of dedication instructing the players. Not only was he a mentor and coach, but I saw that Jamal was an excellent educator.” Once the two started chatting, Mark learned that Jamal needed a bachelor’s degree to advance and was only a few courses shy of graduation
But the person who stands out the most in his journey to graduation is Sociology Professor Theresa Martinez. “I can’t say enough good things about her and how helpful she was and still is. She is by far the best professor I have ever had. With her passion, expectations for excellence, knowledge of the subject as well as her push. Mrs. Martinez is a pure class act.”
The Sociology Department Advisor Zach Franzoni played a key part. He helped Jamal get on track and adjusted to the new way of attending the U. “Zach was more than patient and helpful with me throughout my last semester before graduation.”
Return to the U
An individual is never completely isolated, and in the end, there is no better way to create a healthy community than to help one another. This story is a tribute to everyone who, in Jamal’s words, “…..connected me with every and all the resources I needed to be able to both get back in school and finish what I started.”
Two decades ago, the resources available at the U were different. Since then, Return to the U opened. Its support team watched many graduates come through. Striving to provide better support to working adults within our Utah community, the program has helped many returning students attain their bachelor’s degrees.
Jamal’s story is just one of hundreds. Many students cannot afford the financial or time resources to dedicate to formal education. The important thing is for that to change: for social institutions to take responsibility for helping individuals along in their formal education
Return to U is giving just such a service to our Utah community. For returning students, life away from courses never stops moving. At the point of coming back to school, Jamal worked to overcome balancing classes around working jobs. With different responsibilities vying for their attention, students can find relief in a team of supportive advisers.
Jamal kept mindful of his reason for coming back. “You have to figure out your why for coming back, what is it that makes you want to do this. Find your why and hold on to it while you go through the formal education system.”
Besides, Jamal says, “I think that the University of Utah has all the resources for any tradition or non-traditional student to be successful.”