Editor's note: Maureen Burns is not the traditional graduating senior. Founder of the Herbal Sage Tea Co. in Athens, Burns also juggled the demands of life as a single mother until her recent marriage. During the final stretch of her seven-year enrollment, Burns took back-to-back quarters of 20-plus credit hours while expanding her business by 15 percent. As this chapter of her journey closes, Burns took time to reflect on her Ohio University experience.
Moving to Athens with my son, Zach, allowed me to consider the possibility that a four-year degree might be within reach. I never realized as I took those first steps into the academic world that it would be one of the most fantastic journeys of my life. I've attended off and on as time and finances would allow, and I will be graduating on Saturday with a bachelor's degree in specialized studies.
I spent my first two years focused on dietetics, then moved into more eclectic courses, looking at the broader aspects of health and healing. My studies included biology, religion, spirituality and anthropology. I also had the opportunity to look at the purported correlations between pilgrimage and prayer and the psychology of illness. Last year, I spent time with our Athens County Health Department delving into the diabetes health crisis that is prevalent in this area.
The friends I've made as a direct result of my association with the university would have never materialized had I not risked going back to school. I am grateful for the many relationships and friendships that have begun here. Sometimes I forgot the age difference between most of the students and me. They have won me over with their energy and openness. I especially like the students who are driven by their own convictions, regardless of what other say. (I wonder why I like them the best!)
Then there is the mental challenge. Since going to Ohio University, I've started thinking about issues that never would have crossed my mind. This experience has challenged me mentally, stretched my thinking on a variety of topics and proven that I can follow through on a difficult undertaking. I developed mental stamina that I never thought possible.
College has been like candy for me. Like all experiences in life you don't always get exactly what you expect. I have not been able to always pick my favorite candy, though. I refer to chemistry as sour patch candy. It looked interesting, but was hard to finish.
Psychology was like a melted chocolate bar, the flavor rich and creamy with a familiar sense to it. I have always been intrigued with the complexity of the mind.
Community health coursework was like those pop rock candies that kids eat now, always something surprising and catching me off guard.
Of course I favored writing classes, public speaking and group projects were my favorites. These academic gems have been a grab bag of treats with something different thrown in each.
My relationships with peers and professors have developed my commitment to Athens and a degree from Ohio University also will add credibility to my business reputation.
My studies at Ohio University have been sweet, but the rewards of broader experience, deeper thinking, and surmounting challenges, academic and otherwise, are the real candy and the best reward.