By Betsy Oda, Contributing Writer

Life doesn’t always go according to plan. Dreams of earning a college degree can sometimes get put on hold as “real life” responsibilities arise. But for some Asbury University staff members, these deep-rooted aspirations are now being fulfilled.

Nancy Harrison, staff assistant for both the Christian Studies and Philosophy Department and the Ancient and Modern Languages department, has been pursuing an associate’s degree since she began her career 10 years ago. According to the Asbury University faculty manual, a staff member “may take one class for credit per semester at no charge with a limit of two per academic year.”

Harrison has only 12 credit hours left before earning an Associate of Arts, along with a possible minor in photography. She was also able to transfer some previous credit hours from her time spent at the University of Kentucky.

For Harrison, the benefit of a class each semester is a way to accomplish something she has always wanted to do. “It’s really my one true regret that I didn’t go to college,” Harrison said. “That was the one thing I didn’t do that I wanted to do.”

Harrison isn’t the only staff member on this path at Asbury University. Benefits and Human Resources Coordinator Brenda Hilbert hopes to graduate in about a year with an Associate of Arts and a minor in business. Hilbert was encouraged to begin taking classes by Vice President for Business Affairs Glenn Hamilton, her boss at the time, as a way to gain experience and confidence.

“I think you have a different appreciation [for college education] when you’re older, because you really have to work a little harder,” Hilbert said. “It’s very rewarding for me, and I learn a lot of content.”

But Hilbert believes the greatest reward for her is simply being with the students. She said, “We have the greatest students here, and I learn from them as much as I learn content.”

Harrison shares the same sentiment. “I enjoy connecting with a student when they’re a freshman, and then I get to watch them go through college and graduate,” she said. “It’s kind of painful when they leave me.”

I think you have a different appreciation for college education when you’re older, because you really have to work a little harder.

Even though Harrison and Hilbert are on what Harrison calls “the slow path,” these two Asbury employees – as well as several others – are stepping out and taking initiative to achieve their goals.

“I like being challenged,” Harrison said. “If all goes well, I’d like to keep on and do my bachelor’s. I’m proud of myself.”

She and Hilbert both want to encourage college students to continue their education even when it’s challenging and to avoid letting time go by too quickly.

“I just think we should all be lifelong learners,” Hilbert said. “It’s never too late.”