Fifteen years after beginning his college career, Bryan Woodson received his bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in African American studies from the KU Edwards Campus in May. And from his overseas internship in Germany to the friends and professors who inspired him, Woodson said his college experience has truly changed his life.
“My time at KU has been incredible,” Woodson said. “I didn’t think I would enjoy it as much as I did. I learned so much more about me and allowed myself to experience new opportunities that weren’t afforded to me when I first started college.”
Now 33 years old, the Kansas City, Kansas, native works full time as a foster care case manager. Combining a full-time job with being a full-time student came with challenges, but also rewards, according to Woodson. His Academic Success Coach Ben Herron said it was a privilege to see him accomplish his long-held goal of graduating.
“His perseverance throughout life, as well as the last couple years, has been awe-inspiring,” Herron said. “Adult learners, such as Bryan, face many challenges, but they are central to the work we do at KU Edwards. I am amazed at what Bryan was able to do between juggling a more-than-full-time job in public service with full-time studies.”
Herron credits not only Woodson’s perseverance for his success but also the support he received.
“Bryan was able to achieve his best academic year in his final year here at KU Edwards. He really turned it up a notch,” Herron said. “This is due to Bryan’s tremendous worth ethic, but it was also made possible by the KC Scholars organization and their support of adult learners here in Kansas City. Working with students like Bryan is why I work in this profession. I thank Bryan for the opportunity to learn from him and become better at what I do.”
As an adult learner and one of the first adult KC Scholars scholarship recipients, Woodson hopes his unique perspective will help others.
Q: What has been a typical day in your life as a student attending KUEC?
A: The typical day for me as a student was challenging. I have worked in the field of social work/social services for 10 years so there are already challenges there, but when you add on the role of a full-time student, it came with even more. It was tough, but it was very worth it.
Q: What makes you the happiest?
A: Helping others and I think that’s why I have remained in the field that I am in for so long. I love advocating for those who cannot advocate for themselves and knowing that I helped them keeps me fulfilled. That is also why I got a degree in psychology, because while some might think my degree should’ve been in social work, understanding the brain and behaviors is so much more beneficial to me.
Q: What motivates you?
A: My nieces and nephews and also the memory of my mother. My mother wanted her children to receive an education. It was one of her dying wishes to see me graduate high school and also college. Unfortunately, she didn’t get to see either as she passed almost 17 years ago. I was determined to make that dream of hers happen though and despite all the obstacles I faced along the way, the memory of her and being able to be a role model to my nieces and nephews kept me going.
Q: Why did you choose KUEC?
A: In ways I feel like KUEC chose me. I was one of the first recipients of the KC Scholars Adult Learners Scholarship. I applied, forgot about it and on Mother’s Day of 2017 I checked my email and saw my award letter. This scholarship required that I attend one of the affiliate schools and at the time The University of Kansas was one of nine. Knowing that I couldn’t travel back and forth to Lawrence, KUEC was the choice. But it was when I visited (without an appointment) and saw how I was treated, that is when I knew that I had to be here. I even remember shopping at Target one day after that visit and saw a staff member who greeted me by name. In that moment, I felt at peace with my decision and also being able to be greeted by name from someone that only met me once made me feel like a person and not a number.
Q: How did KUEC meet your personal and/or academic needs?
A: Academic and personal wise, it met my needs by allowing me to earn my degree at my own pace and kind of by my own rules. Being an older student, it is sometimes hard to take direction from others who might be the same age as you if not younger. I knew what my goals were and how I wanted to achieve them. The staff here allowed me to do that, but with their direction and support.
Q: How has your KU degree prepared you for the future?
A: I already had the career, but KUEC allowed me to have some additional credentials added to my name. The school also opened my eyes to other things I could be doing. I have always wanted to work in higher education and student affairs. My academic experience both past and present exposed me to that love again and with the encouragement of staff here, I know that is a direction I want to move into next.
Q: What was the most difficult part of earning your college degree and how did you overcome it?
A: I started this journey so long ago and like I mentioned before, I suffered a loss which was my mother who was my biggest supporter. I struggled so hard trying to return to school and the biggest issue was finances and additional support. I felt alone and settled for the idea of not returning. I overcame these difficulties by realizing my worth and that there were opportunities for me and people who cared. My time here at KUEC had some challenging moments as well but seeing the end goal of graduation is what kept me going.
Q: What is your proudest accomplishment?
A: Turning in that final assignment knowing that all my hard work paid off. But also earning a high enough GPA to be on the Dean’s List twice, including this past semester where I took 21 credits at one time. I am proud of myself because I set my mind to do something, though a lot of people saw me taking so many credits at once as a problem. I saw the light at the end of the tunnel, laid out my blueprint and followed through with it. I also got to travel abroad to Germany, which afforded me my first overseas experience and a lot of networking.
Q: What is your favorite memory of your time at KUEC?
A: I think my favorite memories at KUEC were my talks with my advisor, Ben, and also my favorite professor, Dr. [Alexander] Williams [KUEC psychology program director and assistant teaching professor]. With my advisor, the talks would be difficult sometimes and I believe that is because we challenged each other. Not always seeing eye to eye but knowing that we both wanted the best for me. And with Dr. Williams, he was so motivating. These are individuals who are the same age as me and I was able to look at them not out of jealousy, but out of admiration because they show students what life can look like after graduation and help prepare the students to get there as well.
Q: What are your long-term career goals and how do you plan to achieve them?
A: Again, I would like to move into the higher ed sector. I believe that I can be a testament and a huge help to other students with stories like mine. I believe even with my background of social work it can be beneficial as well. I have already started applying for jobs with degree requirements that I meet, and I hope to one day be as helpful to students as the staff at KUEC were to me.
Q: What advice would you give others who are thinking of earning a degree, whether a first-time bachelor’s, a second bachelor’s or a master’s?
A: Go for it, it is never too late. I am a witness that there are programs and funding out there to help you along the way and though it might sound scary to work full time and be a full-time student, it is possible!
Learn more about the bachelor’s degrees in psychology offered at KU Edwards Campus.