LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 1, 2019) — It was fall of 1994. In many ways, Sharon Mofield-Boswell was your typical college freshman. She was eager — eager to embark on a new chapter as a student at the University of Kentucky. But college came with its own set of challenges. On top of that, Mofield-Boswell had a unique set of responsibilities — as a single mom.
"I left school with only one semester to go, and I just focused on raising my daughter."
Years went by — 25 years, to be exact. She got married. Her household continued to grow, and life continued to get more hectic. "After a little while, it became mostly about my children, and I'm happy with that decision."
Mofield-Boswell doesn't regret her decision to put family first. She has a comfortable life, filled with love. A dedicated mother — she has always pushed her children to excel. But at the turn of the new year, she decided to take her own advice.
"My girls — that's what drives me to come back," Mofield-Boswell said. "It was all stemming from that regret of leaving it unfinished and just wanting to be a role model for my children. Not only is it what I expect for them, it's what I expect for myself."
In January 2019, she returned to UK determined to finish what she started two decades ago. Coming back to college to earn a bachelor's degree in liberal studies was no easy feat. Mofield-Boswell, who is an instructional assistant at a local elementary school, has a demanding schedule, but the Project Graduate program made the process much easier for the working mom.
"It's individualized and personalized attention — that you really need to jump back into, what feels like, a world that left you behind," she said.
Project Graduate is a statewide initiative to assist adult learners, who have accumulated 80 or more credit hours, to finish their bachelor's degree. The program has been active at UK for more than 15 years, and the College of Arts and Sciences has paved the path for returning students, especially with its Bachelor of Liberal Studies (BLS) degree.
"There are many resources available from the university to help make sure Project Graduate students can be successful," Aaron Vaught, assistant registrar, said.
Resources extend to one-on-one advising, special registration times and BLS restricted classes. In order to help as many students as possible obtain their degree, an initiative to offer BLS classes online kicked off in the spring of 2018, and more are continually being added. Courses are also offered in eight-week sections for those who work full time and have other obligations. Finances can also be a concern for many students, including those returning after an absence. UK has launched an institutional loan specifically for select Project Graduate students, in hopes of alleviating financial strain.
With almost 350 students enrolled in the program since 2016, and 221 degrees awarded in that time, the program is helping many students fulfill their life-long goal of obtaining a college degree.
This May, 100 undergraduate students with Project Graduate will receive their diploma — compared to 22 last spring. The significant increase is a direct result of outreach efforts. "Just for spring 2019, we added 100 college graduates simply by reaching out to students and saying, ‘I am here to help you finish that degree,'" Vaught said.
The Commonwealth has bold goals, and one of them is to reach 60 percent college degree attainment by 2030. UK plays an integral role in helping the state achieve success. "One of the goals of this institution is to increase the degree attainment of Kentuckians, and the Project Graduate program is accomplishing that goal one student record at a time," Vaught said.
Beaming with pride and overcome with emotion — Mofield-Boswell has also accomplished her life-long goal. On May 5, as her family looks on, she will walk across the Rupp Arena stage at Commencement. Mofield-Boswell has put others before herself for the last 25 years. Now, it's her turn to shine.
"It took a while to get here, but I got here," she said, as she wiped away tears. "I'm proud to be a University of Kentucky graduate."
You can learn more about Project Graduate online.
The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion two years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. The Chronicle of Higher Education judged us a “Great College to Work for,” and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers." We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for three straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.