Friday, April 23, 2010

Paradigm Scholarship for Working Women goes to Peirce’s own Michelle Buchanan

Paradigm Scholarship for Working Women 
winner and Peirce College student 
Michelle Buchanan
Some of the things you’ll hear about often on Peirce Connections are the challenges that our students face in pursuing their education. Since our students are primarily working adults, they have to balance jobs, family, money, and a number of other obstacles that can get in the way of earning a degree. Every day, we hear more inspiring stories from current students and alumni who have found ways to achieve great success while balancing their many obligations.

Today, I want to take a moment to recognize someone who’s a great example of what Peirce students are capable of: Michelle Buchanan. Michelle was recently awarded a Paradigm Scholarship for Working Women from the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

A full-time employee at Firstrust Bank (a Chamber member company), Michelle is also currently enrolled in Peirce’s Information Technology Program. Working full time for a Chamber member company while also working towards her undergraduate degree, Michelle realized she met the basic scholarship criteria. She took a closer look and ended up submitting an application.

The decision to apply certainly paid off! Michelle was recognized along with her fellow scholarship recipients at the annual Paradigm Award celebration held in March. I recently had some time to catch up with Michelle and speak with her about the whole experience.

After submitting her scholarship application, Michelle resumed her busy schedule, balancing work, school, and raising her two daughters, ages five and 10. When she received the call to let her know she had been selected as a winner, Michelle was thrilled! She says, “I actually forgot about it, and when I got the call saying I had been selected as a winner, I was shocked! I thought, ‘I should do this more often!’”

Michelle had this to say about the awards luncheon, the speeches, and the 2010 Paradigm Award winner, Mary Stengel Austen, President and CEO of Tierney Communications:
“She gave an amazing speech and was so captivating. She had humor, talked about things we could relate to, shared her story about where she started and how she ended up where she is today while balancing her work and family. I thought, 'we aren’t that different, we’ve gone through a lot of the same things. I can do this too!'”
What made the whole process so meaningful to Michelle?
“It was inspiring to be in a room filled with career-oriented women, all here to honor a hardworking woman. I got a chance to talk with other scholarship winners about the schools we go to, how we accomplish everything. All these driven women, balancing the same challenges, sharing experiences -- it was a good networking experience.

When you’re going to school and working, it becomes so routine that you forget about what you’re really accomplishing. You know you’re doing something difficult, but to get recognized for it, that’s a whole other feeling. You realize it means something.”
Michelle first started working toward her bachelor’s degree at Peirce back in 2001, but life events caused her to take a few detours before making her way back. She found that the courses offered at Peirce, the flexibility of taking online classes, and the support available made much more sense than the path she was on.
“One of the hardest but most important things in going back to school was finding a balance. It was very difficult in the beginning, working while raising two girls and also maintaining a high honor, which is very important to me.

When you’re an adult and juggling so much and paying for this education, it means more. You’re putting so much more into it, the money, and the hours. I put a lot of pressure on myself to maintain a high GPA, to get those As.”
Michelle is projected to graduate in May 2011 with her degree in IT and a Concentration in Programming. Her ultimate aspiration is to be her own boss, and she thinks about someday starting her own business to work in web-based design.

Michelle’s daughters can’t wait for her to be done so they can have their mom full time, but she’s worked hard to find the balance that works for all of them. And in the meantime, her girls are learning how important an education is.
“My 10-year-old is already talking about how she wants to go away to college when she graduates high school. She sees college as a necessity.”