Higher Degrees of Excellence
When Immaculata University employees Debra Beam and Leslie Bokoski high-fived one another last December, it was to celebrate the completion of the very last class they needed to graduate. With exactly the same number of credits, Beam and Bokoski attended every single course together, completing their undergraduate degrees in human performance management in four years.
The two were so committed to and supportive of each other throughout the program that when Beam anticipated that she would need to postpone taking a class, Bokoski didn’t hesitate to stick with her friend. Fortunately, Beam’s advisor was able to work with her and neither of the ladies missed the class. Beam noted that they would always volunteer to pair up when necessary for a class project. “We just work well together and our philosophy of education is very similar,” Beam said.
Their journey together began about 16 years ago when they met while working at Charlestown Elementary School in the Great Valley School District. Beam and Bokoski knew they liked one another from day one. “I was a tech aide,” stated Beam who worked at the school district first. She was able to mentor Bokoski through the learning curve of becoming a liaison between teachers and students to help them understand technology. Soon Bokoski started working at Immaculata and when she noticed an open position, she contacted her old friend who was, by then, job hunting.
When they first decided to take classes, they each had a personal goal in mind—to finish the B.A.s they had begun years earlier. After a full semester, they decided to enter the accelerated program. Beam, who is currently a secretary in University Advancement, and Bokoski, now administrative assistant to the University’s president, were determined women. “We didn’t want to regret that we never took advantage of the opportunity to finish our degrees,” stated Bokoski. “I am so grateful to Immaculata for providing this to me.”
With full-time work and long hours devoted to class time and homework, Beam and Bokoski instantly became role models for their children: each had a child attending college at the same time they were in college. Although the classes were challenging, both ladies were academically fulfilled. Looking back and smiling, both acknowledged that their favorite class was “Guided Imagery,” taught by Miriam Franco, Psy.D., professor of sociology. The one-credit art course taught by Diane Grimes, Art Department chair, was also a favorite, helping Beam and Bokoski appreciate art more.
“I am so glad we did it,” Beam said with Bokoski nodding enthusiastically.
Although they didn’t take every class together, Brian Petersen and Dina Stern, both employed in the Financial Aid Office, and Rita Jolls, who is director of the Administrative Systems Liaison Office, went through the Organization Leadership graduate program together.
And Petersen doesn’t believe his class cohort ends with graduation. He commented, “Our connections, as well as our learned skills, will continue to grow long after we earn our degree.”
Jolls, who became close to many of her classmates, agrees. On several occasions, she and her classmates socialized after class or at the end of a course. Jolls recalled that she always felt that she could reach out to either Petersen or Stern to ask questions or to discuss ideas related to the program.
Stern noted that she admires Jolls’ writing ability and was motivated by Petersen’s energy and humor. “When I doubted myself, he helped instill self-confidence,” she stated.
“I entered Immaculata’s M.S.N. program by accident,” explained Leslie Pavletich, IU’s director of Student Health Services. While working as a nurse at Immaculata, she accompanied the then-director of Health Services to a meeting regarding the M.S.N. program. Associate Professor of Nursing Jane Tang, Ph.D., who was conducting the meeting, turned to Leslie and said, “How about you?” Initially she declined, but Tang was persuasive and, before she knew it, the acceptance letter arrived.
After completing her M.S.N. degree, Pavletich was offered an adjunct teaching position with Delaware County Community College instructing clinical nursing to first-level nursing students at Chester County Hospital. She also hopes to have a teaching position in IU’s R.N. to B.S.N. program as well. “I absolutely love teaching—I love it,” stated Pavletich. “I had forgotten how much I missed being in a hospital setting.”
Because her degree was so specialized, Pavletich didn’t take courses with other Immaculata employees but did feel a special bond with many of the nursing faculty. She especially feels that Stephanie Trinkl, D.N.Sc., professor of nursing, who was the teacher in both Pavletich’s first and last course in the M.S.N. program, was incredibly supportive and a wonderful mentor.
Kevin Bowman and Alex Drakely, hardworking staff members of Immaculata’s Facilities Department, have taken classes together, sometimes with other employees from the maintenance staff. Drakely, who received his undergraduate degree in business administration, said that some of his best class memories were the fun and engaging group projects he conducted with friends and classmates. Although Bowman, who earned a B.A. in psychology, appreciated the group projects, he joked that his fondest memory was picking up his diploma! But he also noted that he really enjoyed the relationships that were built with some of his professors.
You may recognize Dwight Bazemore’s face from some local TV commercials in which he has appeared, including a recent one for Car Sense. Bazemore, who works for Office of Technology Services and earned a bachelor’s degree in IT in business, took several classes with fellow IU employees and said that he felt a special bond with all of them that is easy to sustain during the work week. According to Bazemore, one of the most satisfying aspects of earning his degree as an adult student was having his work recognized by way of the Dean’s List and induction into the Alpha Sigma Lambda Honor Society. Now that he has completed his degree, the technical support technician plans to spend more time on his acting career and his family.
For Robyn Dooley, the support services manager for the College of LifeLong Learning (CLL), academic success runs in her family as she is aunt to the Immaculata University honors student Alex Onderdonk who was the recipient of this year’s prestigious Saint Catherine Medal.
Dooley graduated with a B.A. in Human Performance Management and feels that her college courses directly benefit her work in CLL. She credits her degree with providing her with the ability to communicate clearly and to work within a team to accomplish a goal.
Along the way, Dooley took classes with both Debbie Beam and Leslie Bokoski and commented “The experience that my classmates brought to the classroom complemented the knowledge gained through professional instruction.”
Security officer Eric Jackson, who earned his undergraduate degree in Psychology, said the best part of going through college as an adult is the friendships he has made. Although, now that he has completed his degree, he is looking forward to spending more time with his family and non-college friends as well.
In addition, Dining Services employee Brian Hill earned his B.S. in Information Technology.
Who says that only traditional-aged students make lifelong friends in college? Dina Stern summed it up best when she stated that, “The people that I have shared this experience with will always remain dear to me.”
Can we get another “high-five”?