Adult degree program
graduates first students
by Andrew Shurtleff
Griffin (left), Vickie Johnson-Williams, Jay Burgess
By Katherine Jackson
the thousands of graduates receiving degrees from the University
on May 19, three women will be the first recipients of its Bachelor
of Interdisciplinary Studies degree.
C. Burgess of Charlottesville, Carrie Griffin of Springfield and
Vickie Johnson-Williams of Crozet represent the first fruits of
a new adult-degree effort by U.Va.
remarkable women are shining examples to many who dream of earning
a degree from Mr. Jeffersons University, said Sondra
F. Stallard, dean of the School of Continuing and Professional
by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia in 1999,
the part-time degree program began that fall. It offers evening
and weekend classes in six concentrations..
Jay and Vickie have earned their degrees in an academically rigorous
program designed to satisfy the intellectual curiosity and professional
development needs of working adults, Stallard said.
a former full-time U.Va. student, enrolled in the BIS program
in the fall of 2000 shortly after giving birth to a son. I
heard about BIS through a TV commercial. Needing about 30 credits
to complete my degree [in business], BIS was a perfect fit for
me, she said.
while caring for a 2-year-old has been difficult. But Griffin,
26, credits support from family, faculty, students and neighbors
with easing the burden.
students are amazing, juggling work, family and school, and its
been wonderful getting to know them. There is unbelievable commitment
by the folks behind BIS.
Burgess, 38, a California native, started college while in the
military. A 15-year Navy veteran, Burgess heard about U.Va.s
program while attending community college in Norfolk. She moved
to Charlottesville, completed prerequisites at Piedmont Virginia
Community College and entered U.Va. in the fall of 2000. Burgess
plans to pursue a law degree.
to Charlottesville was difficult for the daughter of an Air Force
officer. Her sons, ages 14 and 12, moved to Detroit to be with
their father. Burgess professors have been flexible and
supportive, allowing her time to visit with her sons when necessary.
offered me an opportunity to earn a degree from one of the finest
schools in the country, Burgess said. And as an adult
I fully appreciate the significance of a college education.
1980 Charlottesville High School graduate with a nursing certificate,
Johnson-Williams earned associate degrees in 1997 from PVCC and
Blue Ridge Community College in liberal arts and nursing, respectively.
Johnson-Williams, 40, was among the first to enroll in the BIS
program. Now, she is considering graduate education.
family time while attending classes was important to her. I
never missed my daughters softball games, and often my husband
went along on library trips, sitting for hours as I studied. And
my son was always a tower of support. Her daughter is 16;
her son, 20.
first-generation college graduate, Johnson-Williams has worked
hard toward her goal. I have been rewarded with a U.Va.
degree that will allow me to provide services to economically
depressed minority women.