‘Humans of Calvert County’ Facebook Page Features CSM Registrar Sharing Powerful Message about Community Colleges – and CSM

The following post is reprinted in its entirety, with permission, from the Humans of Calvert County Facebook page. The Humans of Calvert County is modeled after Humans of New York, which doesn’t share names as a general rule, with the thought that it helps make the story being shared the most important piece of what is being discussed, rather than who said it.  (Although we think the person who said this is pretty darn important.) 

“I’m a Maryland girl. I was born and raised in Montgomery County. After high school, I went off to Frostburg State University. I was fortunate to come from a family where both sides had individuals who had been college-educated. I didn’t understand at the time how fortunate I was to have that in my life, but now I am thankful for the support I had to go to college. Even so, I was a little bit intimidated about being around other college students. I wasn’t sure I belonged there and wondered if I was smart enough to get a college degree. Thankfully, I had a wonderful first semester. I made the Dean’s List and the Freshman Honor Society. I made lots of really good friends and I really took advantage of everything and I became very involved. I made the most of those four years including studying abroad and spending a summer through Boston University in London doing an internship. In college, I was a history major and I thought I wanted to pursue a career in archaeology. I distinctly remember about a month before I graduated from college thinking about graduate school and a good friend of mine asked me what I was going to do next. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do next, but she said, “Given your personality, I think you would be a really great admissions recruiter, and there is a position open here at Frostburg and also one at Shepherd College.”

So I interviewed for a few jobs and got the one at Shepherd College as an admissions counselor. I really enjoyed working there, but what I struggled with a little was that since I wasn’t the strongest academically myself in high school, and Shepherd was competitive admissions, I was telling students at 17 and 18 years old that they couldn’t get accepted into that college. So when an opportunity came up to work at the junior college in Hagerstown in admissions and the Registrar’s office, I took it and I worked there for five years. I had lots of really great experiences there and it also felt like home to me in a way that Shepherd didn’t, because I knew it was open and welcoming to all students who were looking to pursue higher education. My husband was from Calvert County and by this point, we had three small kids and we knew it was time to move back to where he grew up. Fortunately, the Registrar position became open at the College of Southern Maryland and I got that position and I am going on my 23rd year as the Registrar for CSM.

CSM is a really wonderful place to be. When I was investigating it before I interviewed for my job, I just got the sense from looking at the catalog that they were really a step above a lot of other institutions. They were more forward-thinking and they were doing things to help students that were just a little ahead of the bar of what we were seeing at other colleges around the state. I could tell that it was not a place where you were ever going to be bored because they were going to be leaders in what they were doing in Maryland and even nationally. That’s really what has kept me here in this position all these years. It’s part of our culture that we continue to evaluate ourselves and improve, which makes it a really great place to work, but also benefits our students greatly. A supervisor once told me that he never wanted me to be bored because when you get bored you are going to want to leave. CSM has never bored me.

My family also really benefited from me working at the college. It started with them going to Kid’s College when they were younger. As they got older, two of them became camp counselors. One of them did dual enrollment, and all three of them ended up getting their associates degree from here. And honestly, even if I didn’t work here, I think I would have encouraged them all to come to CSM first because it made them so much more prepared when they transferred to Towson and Salisbury. And because they completed their associates degrees at CSM first before transferring, everything transferred so all their general education requirements were done and then they were able to jump right into their major courses. They also were admitted to their four-year choices right away because if you are coming from a community college, and you have at least a 2.0 GPA, you will be admitted to any Maryland institution. Now, they aren’t admitted automatically to competitive programs, but they were well-positioned to get into those programs because they already had two years of college under their belts and a college GPA. The other thing that many families don’t realize is that if you graduate with your associates degree, many colleges offer really great scholarships for transfer students. So on top of paying less in the first two years, you may get money to attend the four-year college that isn’t available coming straight out of high school.

Right now as a nation we have over a trillion-dollar student loan debt. I think that’s something we really need to think about as parents and in higher education as well. My kids graduated with a four-year degree with very little debt. My one daughter paid hers off really quickly, and my twins had less than $14,000 they owed which would not have been possible for them without going to CSM first.

While they benefited from getting their tuition waived at CSM, our costs are still a fraction of what students end-up paying at four-year state schools. I mean, for some of these kids that take on that kind of debt that means that they can’t make car payments, or payments on a house, or childcare. It’s interesting because when I was growing up, my family was very pro “go away” for college. They felt that going away was a fundamental part of the college experience. I think that it’s important that you have access to education, and that for many different reasons, going away is not always the best option. I loved my time at Frostburg, and I know that for many, a four-year college is viewed as the ‘college experience’, but it’s a financial decision as well, and I would never want what people view as ‘the college experience’ to stop them from getting an education.”