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July 7, 2022

Achieving a Dream: Alumna and University College Student Support Professional an Inspiration

Rachel Vardeman, Student Support Specialist at University College, knows a little something about helping students. Not only has she helped many in their journey toward a degree but she also has the unique perspective of being right there with them working through the challenges of balancing life, work, and achieving educational goals.

This spring, Rachel walked the stage and celebrated with her coworkers, peers, and the students she helped every day in her University College career after fulfilling a dream: earning her bachelor’s degree (and graduating with honors!).

Rachel shared her accomplishment via her LinkedIn account, and graciously allowed us to publish her inspirational story.

In her words:

For a long time, I really beat myself up for not having a Bachelor’s degree. When I first started college after high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do with myself and was struggling (as I always had been in school, without knowing) with unmanaged ADHD.

Two years after I had fumbled my way through random business classes, Arabic, fashion design, and marketing classes, I got a frantic call from my mom, telling me she had breast cancer again. I moved to Colorado to take care of her and dropped out of school a year later, two weeks before she died. Two years later, I was thinking about returning to school when I found out I was pregnant. Through a long series of heartbreaking events, my time and life as a mother was cut too short.

But at the beginning of 2020, in the midst of a once in a lifetime pandemic, I started back to school again. Two years later, I now have a bachelor’s degree in Healthcare Administration. I graduated with honors and a 4.0.

I was hard on myself until I recently reflected back on what I’ve been through and how the years have shaped me. I spent the last six years grieving unimaginable loss, and I must remind myself that grief is not an excuse but a remarkably heavy burden that can only heal with time. Against all odds, I finally did it and I feel incredibly proud of myself. While getting a bachelor’s at 27 is late in society’s eyes, the years in-between high school and now have shaped me into the woman I am and I’m proud to be her.

I share my story as a reminder to myself and as encouragement to others. It’s never, ever too late to pursue what you want for your life. Society enforces these invisible and unrealistic expectations that inhibit us from living fully. Things may pan out differently than you imagined but don’t take for granted life you’ve lived and how it’s shaped you. That experience can be a foundation for further growth and success. Time waits for no one but you can also move with time.

So, I’ll end with this:

“When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder if I have made of my life something particular and real. I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened, or full of argument. I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world”

-Mary Oliver

Congratulations, Rachel!

Did you know, if you are a full-time employee of the University of Denver, you may qualify for full tuition reimbursement to pursue a degree? Check out the many graduate programs and the Bachelors Completion Program at University College to make your education dreams a reality!

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