Honoree

Karen Clelland

AWARDS

IUAA President's Award (2010)
Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne
School of Continuing Studies
A.G.S., 1994; B.G.S., 2001
School of Continuing Studies Distinguished Alumni Award (2010)
Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne
School of Continuing Studies
A.G.S., 1994; B.G.S., 2001

BIOGRAPHY

While many general studies students have taken college classes prior to coming to the degree program, Karen Clelland started out in it.

Married right out of high school, Clelland went to work instead of to college. Eventually, though, she felt the time was right to pursue a college degree. "The degree in general studies is a perfect degree program because you can tailor it to fit your needs," Clelland explained. "I felt that general studies gave me more options. I could do life experience portfolios – I ended up getting credit for two over the course of my studies – I could take distance courses, and I could continue to work. I felt more comfortable there as a returning adult who had been working than I would have in other programs."

Right after being admitted, however, Clelland experienced a health scare, a second marriage, and a relocation that almost put school in the backseat once again. "One morning I was talking to my husband, Phil, about how my dream of a college degree had been put off time and again. He encouraged me to go to IPFW and see what I could find out," Clelland said. "He had gone to IU Bloomington, and really believed in the power of education. With his encouragement, I finally had the courage to do it. I went that morning and signed up."

Clelland earned the Associate of General Studies in 1994, which led very quickly to a promotion with the Social Security Administration's Office of Disability, Adjudication, and Review, where she'd been employed for 13 years. "I'd worked with the Social Security Administration for a long while, and had received 10 superior performance awards. But even with that experience, it really helped set me apart that I had a degree."

Her new position meant a lot more responsibility, including supervising 32 employees. She took a few years off school to focus on her career, and was initially reluctant to dive back in to pursue a bachelor's degree. Returning to school would be just one more thing she'd have to do – and besides, she felt like maybe she was getting too old. "I complained to my husband that I would be 50 before I got my degree. He told me that I would be 50 either way – and I might as well be 50 and earn my degree. It seemed like a good argument to me!"

In 2001, seven years after she'd earned her associate degree, Clelland graduated with a Bachelor of General Studies. True to her previous experience, a few months later she received another promotion at work – this time becoming a paralegal analyst, assisting lawyers and judges in researching decisions and drafting the judges' case decisions. She's confident that once again, having her degree enabled her to set herself apart from the competition.