The end of the fall semester is approaching and, with it, Tanya Van Risseghem (pronounced vanriss-ing-hem), a Muscoda resident, marks the halfway point in achieving her goal. She’s completing her studies at the University of Wisconsin-Richland and is preparing to transfer to UW-La Crosse.
Confident and organized, she sees a great future ahead. “I’ll graduate in 2013 and have a degree in something I love,” she said. The financial stability that her not-that-distant career will provide for her family is important, too, for this single mother of three—daughters age 16 and 13, and a 10-year-old son.
Jennifer Foley, who works with adult students at UW-Richland, said, “November is national returning adult student month. This is a time we like to recognize the achievements of adults, like Tanya, who are pursuing their dreams.”
Not so long ago, Van Risseghem faced what many people are facing in these tough economic times—unemployment. A dislocated worker, she carefully evaluated her situation and decided to pursue full-time what had been a lifelong dream, a college degree.
“My family is my life. I’m passionate about health and wellness. I enjoy camping, fishing, relaxing around a campfire, and reading. But most of all, I like spending time with my closest friends and family,” she said. “Because of my passions for health, wellness and my desire to help others, I choose to major in community health education and minor in nutrition.
“I’d always wanted to go to college but I had children at a young age. I decided it was best to stay home with the children. When my youngest started kindergarten, I entered the work force fulltime. Eventually, I realized that my passion and desire to return to school was still there,” she said. “After some much needed encouragement and maybe even a little push from my best friend Rose Ann Welsh, I decided to go for it.
“I’d graduated from high school in 1995, so I’d been out of school for 15 years. The transition back to the classroom was scary and a bit nerve-racking. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was concerned about fitting in. I hadn’t anticipated that there would be as many adult students as there are at UWRichland. To my surprise, the transition went a lot smoother than I expected due to themany helpful people on campus.”
Though the transition was easy, balancing everything can be a challenge. “When I first started college, I was working full-time and going to school part-time. At first my children thought that it was cool that mom had homework like them. They’ve been supportive but they did share with me that they miss not having as much time with me as before. They also said they don’t like the lack of free time or the stress during mid-term and final tests. They take the good with the bad. My children are proud of me and they know this is only temporary.”
Van Risseghem said many people at UW-Richland encouraged her. “When I first came to UWRichland, returning adult advisor George Henze really helped. College was alien to me. I had a lot of questions—I still do as I prepare to transfer. None of them were ‘dumb questions’ to him. John Poole and Kari Bartels have assisted me with answers to my many financial aid questions. Faculty who have been influential when life or school challenges arose are Brandon Fetterly and Scott Walter and Jennifer Foley.” She said that the tutoring program and also the support of the IT staff when it comes to using new technology have been valuable to her. Adult students, she said, will find the support they need whether it’s help with a computer program or mathematics.
She finds that time management is the greatest challenge. “It takes a lot to be a successful student. It’s a constant juggling act with time to be a mom, be in a relationship, and manage a home.”
It’s worth the effort. “It’s so rewarding learning new things and creating relationships with people who have the same interests I do. With all the support I have, it’s wonderful to know that I CAN do it,” Van Risseghem said.
What advice does she have for adults considering college?
“College has its challenges just as life does. It’s worth it. Take that first step,” she said. “Even if you start with only one class, it’s a beginning and your chance to build the life and career you desire. There are many people to help you along the way. I suggest that you always be honest with your instructors. That will help you gain their trust. If you’re a returning adult and have life challenges, instructors are understanding and helpful. I’m looking forward to finding a career in something I love. If I can do it, so can you.”
UW-Richland staff who specifically work with adults are George Henze (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 608 647-6186, Ext. 219) and Jennifer Foley (e-mail email@example.com, phone 608 647-6186, Ext. 228). Learn more online at richland.uwc.edu/studentlife/adult_students.asp.