May 5, 2014Vol. 44, Issue 5

It’s Never Too Late to Graduate

In a few weeks, Lori Terrell-Adrian’s 35-year journey to a bachelor’s degree will come to a satisfying end.

Terrell-Adrian, who works full time as an administrative support coordinator in the Department of Political Science, will cross the commencement stage May 17 with a hard-earned degree in business management. But her story as a student started long before.

In 1981, she earned her associate’s degree in secretarial work from Butte College and soon after started a career working in administrative support positions. After a few years, she began taking college business classes in Sacramento and Marin Counties. But her focus was pulled away when life got busy with work and children.

When she landed an administrative assistant position in CSU, Chico's political science department in 2007 and learned about the University’s employee fee-waiver program, she jumped at the opportunity to complete a lifelong goal.

“This was my chance to do something I had always intended to do,” she says. “I was just on a 10- or 15-year hiatus.”

Terrell-Adrian, with her daughter, Alyssa Terrell-Haugland, at Alyssa’s Chico State commencement in spring 2011. At left is Eric Adrian, Terrell-Adrian’s husband.

Terrell-Adrian, with her daughter, Alyssa Terrell-Haugland, at Alyssa’s Chico State commencement in spring 2011. At left is Eric Adrian, Terrell-Adrian’s husband.

She committed to taking two classes per semester while working an 11/12 schedule. She maintained that pace for five years, until fall 2013, when she focused solely on her senior capstone class. The group-project course taught by management professor Jeff Trailer called for her team to analyze the business processes at the Chico State Wildcat Store. The group conducted surveys across campus and provided feedback and suggestions to store director Rob Meyers.

Terrell-Adrian, 52, says that at first, group projects like these caused her some apprehension; she was unsure of how her younger team members would react to having her in the group. Her concerns quickly vanished.

“One of the best things I found was how willing students were to accept me,” she recalls. “Not once did they look at me differently. They just looked at me as their peer.”

She took another opportunity to expand her horizons: In summer 2012, she took a monthlong course in Bilbao, Spain, through the University Study Abroad Consortium. “You couldn’t get me to take a summer class in Chico, but I was willing to go to Spain and study for a month,” she jokes, adding that the experience was a highlight of her undergraduate experience.

While the drive to complete her bachelor’s is largely personal, Terrell-Adrian says the support of her husband, children, and coworkers has played a big role in her success. While she was a student, her son, Kyle, 23, took classes at Butte College. Her daughter, Alyssa, 25, graduated from CSU, Chico in 2011 with bachelor’s degrees in psychology and liberal studies. (Her stepchildren, Justin and Jennifer, ages 35 and 32, are also Chico State alums.) Terrell-Adrian remembers trying “really hard to take a class with my daughter” while the two were on campus, but it never worked out.

Her dedication was recognized in spring 2011, when she was selected for the Staff Council’s Academic Staff Award. The $300 scholarship is given to one employee each semester working to further his or her education. For her, the award served as validation that she was on the right path and has contributed to the “huge sense of accomplishment” she has experienced.

With Commencement on the horizon and her time as a student winding down, Terrell-Adrian says the transition will be a little bittersweet. But, in what she counts as “perfect timing,” her stepson and his wife, Julia, recently had their first child, and Terrell-Adrian is looking forward to settling into a new role—grandmother.

“Who knows whether I’ll really be able to use the degree at this point—I’m just so proud to have been able to achieve this,” she says. “It’s been tough, but it’s been a great experience.”

—Sarah Langford, Public Affairs and Publications

Information about CSU, Chico’s fee-waiver program for employees may be found here.

Senior Sendoff

Senior Send-Off

Soon-to-be grads tell us "what's next" at Senior Send-Off. See their responses.

Sarah Langford

From the Editor

Chico State faculty and staff have left an indelible mark on the class of 2014. Read more.

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