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U.Va. Adult Degree Program Graduates First Students

May 6, 2002-- Among the thousands of graduates receiving degrees from the University of Virginia 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 ofa 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 in 1999, the part-time degree program began that fall. It offers evening and weekend classes in six concentrations: business, humanities, information technology, social sciences, general individualized concentration and education individualized concentration.

"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, 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. "There is unbelievable commitment by the folks behind BIS."

Griffin plans a career in business. But first, "I plan to enjoy an evening with my family … no readings, no projects or papers due."

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.

Moving to Charlottesville was difficult for the daughter of an Air Force officer. Her sons, age 14 and 12, moved to Detroit to be with their father. Burgess’ professors have been flexible and supportive, allowing her time to travel to be 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."

Burgess plans to pursue a law degree.

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.

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."

Johnson-Williams is considering graduate education.

Contact: Katherine Jackson, (434) 924-3629

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services


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