May 17-23, 2002
Back Issues
Speaking on the Lawn
Reserve a 2002 graduation video
Finding cultural identity in deafness and teaching
Six students get grad school boost

Collins takes on international human rights

Student first at U.Va. to win Scottish fellowship
Sullivan Award winners honored
Healing, unity student’s passions
Award also goes to faculty member
Graduates have been pillars of U.Va. student self-governance
College is time of spiritual, intellectual growth
Adult degree program graduates first students
Graduation: Did you know?
Nursing student answers
9-11 call
Students will have their day in the sun
Graduate rallies volunteers to bring arts to schools
Fifteen dozen cookies and a law degree
Wise student aspires to career helping students in higher ed
The beauty of Antarctica beckons, but graduate’s passion is teaching
Adult degree program graduates first students
BIS graduates
Photo by Andrew Shurtleff
Carrie Griffin (left), Vickie Johnson-Williams, Jay Burgess

By Katherine Jackson

Among 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.

Jay 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.

“These remarkable women are shining examples to many who dream of earning a degree from Mr. Jefferson’s University,” said Sondra F. Stallard, dean of the School of Continuing and Professional Studies.

Approved 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..

“Carrie, 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.

Griffin, 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.

Studying 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.

The students are amazing, juggling work, family and school, and it’s 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.

Moving 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.

“BIS 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.”

A 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.

Creating family time while attending classes was important to her. “I never missed my daughter’s 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.

A 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.”


© Copyright 2002 by the Rector and Visitors
of the University of Virginia

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