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Nancy McGowan is marking two milestones this year: she is both graduating and retiring from Harford Community College! A cashier in the Finance and Accounting Department, Nancy has been working at HCC since 2001.
Although she had not taken a college course in more than four decades, in 2013 Nancy decided to see what it would take to complete her degree. She learned from Advising that many of her credits from what she called “the dark ages” would indeed transfer. “Harford accepted many more credits than I had thought they would, so I was happy.” Nancy needed only 15 additional credits to earn an associate degree. “I wanted to complete it more for the satisfaction of it than anything else. My children are all college grads, two with advanced degrees, and I wanted to join their ranks,” she said.
Nancy admitted that it felt strange to attend school again, so she started by taking a hybrid class that was a combination of an in-class meeting once a week with the rest online. She said she had a terrific teacher, Tim Schneider, and things “did not turn out too badly.” She gained confidence and took a course called “The Stormy Sixties” with Dr. James Karmel. “This time I was brave enough to go in person. Again, it was not so bad. There were three other ‘oldies’ in my class, and it was fun.” Although she registered for another class with Dr. Karmel, her recovery from a double knee replacement was not as easy as she had hoped, so Nancy dropped the course. She took the class online the next semester and enjoyed it. “Now I was getting cocky, so I thought I would try a three-week winter session class. It was very hard, but I had a very kind and understanding teacher, Mr. Augie, and I got through it.” Nancy is completing her final course requirement this spring and will earn an Associate of Arts degree in General Studies. While she downplays her academic success, Nancy currently maintains a 4.0 GPA. She is graduating with High Honors and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society, which recognizes scholarship among two-year students.
“It has taken me a mere 46 years to complete my AA degree. Most people complete it a little more quickly, but I decided it would be silly to have an opportunity to finally complete it at no cost and not avail myself of it,” said Nancy.
”I have been happy with my learning experience and also with my employment experience here at Harford. I think the environment is one of excellence. I would definitely (and do) recommend it to others. I will miss everyone very much when I retire. I know that many young people do not like to attend community colleges and think that the learning experience is not as good as four-year colleges. I disagree. I think the caliber of our instructors is on par with any college. I have seen the interaction between instructors and students here. Students are provided with many opportunities if they wish to avail themselves of them, and they are treated with respect.”
She appreciates all that the HCC community has done to help her achieve her goal. Nancy describes her co-workers as amazing and said her supervisor, Lisa Virden, has been very accommodating, allowing her to adjust her schedule when necessary. She also wanted to give kudos to Denise Smith, who was instrumental in helping her to complete her AA. “All of my co-workers are terrific folks, and I have made some lasting friendships here.”
Her immediate plans are to relax, learn to sleep later than 5 a.m., and do a little traveling. She has already planned trips to Key West and Ireland, and she is also looking forward to the birth of a granddaughter in August. Nancy is not finished with her education yet; she plans to take a few more online classes in the future.
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