Shonda Gray

What is it like to be a working adult in the Master of Liberal Arts program? How time consuming is the program? Will I be able to handle the workload as a working professional?

These are all questions that prospective students ask us. We recently sat down with current student, Shonda Gray, and here's what she had to say:

What inspired you to go back to school and get your degree?

What inspired me to go back to school and get a degree was my children. I have a 12- and 14-year-old and they didn't get a chance to see me obtain my previous degrees. So, I decided they could walk alongside me during this process and I wanted this to encourage them to go on and consider post-secondary education.

It's one of the best decisions I've made. The process has been amazing. It was not difficult. It was not challenging. It was just me deciding what do I want to do, coming back into the world of education, and learning for myself.

Did you have any concerns about returning to school?
I thought it was going to be fun and different. When I first started, I was a little nervous because I didn't know how the professors were going to respond to me. I didn't know if they'd think I wasn't capable of doing the work or getting it done on time, but as I communicated with them and explained when I was struggling with balancing life and school, they were actually very understanding. The professors are very flexible but it's important you establish and develop those relationships.

What are your professors like? 

My professors are still in the field. They are not just coming in just as instructors, they're still working in their area of expertise. They're still doing research, they're still out there learning and gaining more knowledge to bring back to the classroom.

Why did you decide on the Master of Liberal Arts program?

I chose the Masters of Liberal Arts program because it was something totally different than I had previously experienced. I have an undergraduate degree in liberal studies but I also have a Masters of Business Administration. I work in education and I wanted something different, and University College's Master's of Liberal Arts program gave me that opportunity to be exposed to different things. 

This program has allowed me to grow both mentally and emotionally and learn about various cultures in the world.

What within the liberal arts program are you choosing to concentrate your time on?

There are different courses offered every semester and there hasn't been one course that's been the same. For example, I had a medicine and morality class. I remember thinking, "How does that go together?" But it really exposed me to health care around the world and what's taking place. It gave me an opportunity to expand my existing knowledge and learn more about what's taking place in our country, and then build on those experiences and grow more in the program.

How do you hope to use the things you're learning in the classroom and apply them to your life and your career?

Earlier in my life, I had a chance to go to Haiti on a mission trip and I plan on going back. This program exposed me to wanting to learn more and get more involved in the communities that we are connected to in various capacities. Also in my work environment, it has allowed me to be open minded, especially in the world of education...to see things differently that other colleagues may not see the same way as educators.

You're going to graduate soon. What are you most excited about as far as graduation goes?

I'm most excited for my children to see me complete the program and walk across that stage! I'm also excited about the things I have learned in the program about the cultural and worldly views.

I never thought I would have been a Washington University student, and University College gave me that opportunity to achieve something I had long dreamed of as an undergraduate student. I want my kids to know and be encouraged to reach for the stars. Whatever school they decide to attend, I want them to focus on what it takes to get into that school and wherever they want to go, they will obtain that opportunity to get there.

What advice would you give somebody who is considering taking classes or applying to a program at University College?

Just do it! Go ahead and take the jump. It's not like normal college that I had experienced as an undergraduate student. Even though it may look like you don't have the time, there is actual time in the day to commit to doing the homework.

Learn more about the program you're interested in, visit the advisors, and communicate your concerns. They have been very helpful in guiding me through this process. It can be challenging at times, but I was encouraged by my advisor and also making some personal decision that I can actually get this done and move forward.


Shonda Gray is pursuing her Master's of Liberal Arts degree from University College at Washington University in St. Louis. She currently works for Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education as a regional director for their Missouri Career Pathways program.