The dream of graduation from Brigham Young University will be realized by thousands of graduating seniors on April 24 in the Marriott Center.
Like other parents, Linda Tilton will be on hand to witness the graduation of her youngest daughter, Kristine, while Rachel Creswell will be there to support her graduating son, Dallin.
Unlike most other parents, however, these two women will be seated next to their graduating child and will be adorned in a cap and gown of their own.
Both Linda and Rachel used BYU's unique Bachelor of General Studies to obtain their bachelor's degrees from BYU more than 30 years after initially starting college.
Linda and Rachel both experienced setbacks and detours on their path to graduation, but never lost sight of the goal to finish college.
Linda discontinued formal studies in 1975, met her husband, and began raising a family. "The idea of completing college never left me, and I knew that it was something that I wanted to do someday," she said. She took some college courses here and there over the years, and eventually earned an associate's degree from a local college in 2000. She was not content with an associate's degree, however, and wanted to complete a bachelor's degree from BYU.
These wishes were enthusiastically transformed into personal goals two and a half years ago when a friend introduced her to the Bachelor of General Studies program.
In Linda's words, her friend, a current BGS student, "answered my questions, alleviated my fears and got me excited about the possibility of actually earning a bachelor's degree from Brigham Young University. It is what I had wanted for years."
Though Linda encountered temporary setbacks in her academic pursuit since admission to the program, including moving to multiple locations across the country, she has managed to keep up steady progress in her Independent Study classes.
Narrowing her sights on graduation, she set a goal with her daughter to graduate together in spring 2003. Now on the threshold of realizing this goal, Linda feels that her road to graduation has taught her many things.
"I learned that it is possible for me to teach myself things that do not come easily, that I can do things that I think are impossible for me to do, and that there is a joy that comes through accomplishing something hard that cannot be experienced in any other way," she said.
Like Linda, Rachel Creswell's initial college experience also ended with marriage and new family beginnings. With her husband in the Marine Corps, she had no idea when she would be able to settle into college work again. The years flew by and she soon had college kids of her own.
Putting her oldest son into college rekindled the desire to finish what she had started so many years ago at BYU. She found herself working toward a degree through Degrees by Independent Study, the predecessor of the current BGS program. She completed one course after another, and the rest is now history. She is completing what she set out to do 31 years ago as a 17-year-old BYU freshman.
"I cannot believe that I am going to graduate! It has been so long," she said. "This will be a special day and I am very grateful for the experience I have had to enrich myself at this time in my life through an education at BYU."
"The BYU Bachelor of General Studies program has made it possible for these women to finish from home what they started decades ago on campus, said Ellen Allred, BGS director. "The length of time taken to finally reach this goal may make the diploma that much sweeter. And to share the moment with a graduating child, who could ask for more?"
There are more than 1,400 BGS students around the globe who are pursuing the dream to graduate from BYU. More than 20 of these students are set to graduate this spring, bringing the total number of BGS graduates to more than 100 since the program began four and a half years ago.
For more information on the Bachelor of General Studies Program, call (801) 378-4351.
Writer: Ben McKinnon