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My own college graduation story

Cindy Gibboney ’18, Director of Enrollment/Alumni Engagement

“What was I thinking?” That pretty much sums up my thoughts during my eight years of working towards my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration.

Let me back up a little. Prior to coming to Juniata College, I had a convoluted start to working towards my degree. As a first-generation student, my family had no idea that “the college search” was even a thing. I did know, however, that I would need to further my education to help with my future. I spent one year at a local community college before my father received orders from the Air Force to relocate to Berlin, Germany. Once there, I found out that there were college courses offered that I could attend in the evenings and on the weekends, since I was working full-time. So, I picked away at taking the courses. After three years, I earned my Associates Degree in Arts from the University of Maryland, even though I had never stepped foot on their campus.

Flash forward to 2007, when I was very blessed to join the Juniata College community. I was excited to learn about the prospect of finally earning my Bachelor’s Degree, but I honestly didn’t think I would have the time to take advantage of that opportunity. After several years of working here, my supervisor and family encouraged me to pursue my degree. In the fall of 2010, I began taking one course at a time – fall, spring, and most summers, until the spring of 2018, when I took my final course.   

Due to my roles as a wife, mother, daughter, daughter-in-law, full-time employee, and active volunteer with our church, I had to be creative with finding time to study. I would study and do homework early in the mornings, during lunch breaks, while on vacations or at retreats, and even in the car traveling to and from evening classes that I attended with my husband while he pursued becoming a Deacon in the Roman Catholic Church.

In many ways though, I still had the same feelings and anxieties as other students. My heart raced when I had to take tests or quizzes. I worried that I wouldn’t meet any friendly faces in class, that the homework would be overwhelming, or I wouldn’t have someone to study with when I was struggling. I wrestled internally with, “Oh please, don’t pick me to answer the question!” or “I do not want to have to get into another random assigned group!”

Eventually, our daughters, Samantha and Danielle Ochs, were attending Juniata as well. I tried to encourage them to check out other colleges, since I knew what a college search was by then. In the end, they both found that Juniata already offered and excelled in what they were passionate about, Samantha with Environmental Studies, and Danielle with Digital Media/Integrated Media Arts.

At one point, Samantha and I were able to take a course online together, and we had fun competing against each other to see who could get the highest grade at the end. This was something I did with my mom when we took a course together at the community college. I ended up with the higher grade then, and my mom had to buy me ice cream. This time though, Samantha beat me, so I had to buy her ice cream!

My daughter and I on the big day!

Coincidentally, Samantha and I ended up graduating together on May 19, 2018. It was one of the absolute best days of my life! When I found out it could be a possibility, I wanted to be mindful that Samantha needed to have her own graduation experience, but when I asked her about it, she graciously agreed. Now that Danielle is a senior at Juniata, set to graduate in May, I am excited to attend the event as just “mom”.

Back to my original question –“What was I thinking?” I was thinking how incredibly smart Juniata students are, and how they don’t shy away from participating in the classroom discussions. I was thinking that those random assigned groups gave me the opportunity to meet some amazing students, especially in my Senior Seminar study group. I was thinking that the professors kept the classes interesting, and I learned so much I could apply directly into my daily work. Finally, I was thinking how overwhelming was the incredible amount of support that I received from my family, faculty, supervisors, advisers, students, and staff, and overall God, which carried me through it all.