Graduation Journey: Untrese Wesley

Untrese Wesley out of Little Rock, Arkansas is graduating this May with her Bachelors in Management. This is her graduation journey:

“As an employee of Webster, I know firsthand how important it is to get a quality education. I was a student at a different university when I came to work at the Little Rock Metro campus, and being a student there was not always the best experience. I made a not so difficult choice to lose a few credit hours and transfer to Webster. My experience with Webster as a student, and an employee, has been that I have been fortunate, lucky, and blessed.

I was lucky enough to have Thuy Kneezel as my advisor. She had tough conversations with me about setting realistic expectations for myself and not overwhelming myself because I was so eager to finish. Thuy kept up with me through Accounting, a course I told her I dreaded to take. Each class, she applauded my achievements and helped me countdown to completion. And when she left the university to pursue her dreams, Dr. Kim Kleinman stepped in to make sure I stayed on track. I was lucky to have a success team with the online learning center I could depend on. Although I never reached out for help, every term there was a note in my inbox reminding me that I could do it and I was getting closer! In fact, I took a trip to St. Louis for a conference and I had the opportunity to meet the advising team and the online learning center team. They were just as excited to meet me as I was to meet them. They’ve all be such amazing support. I received wonderful notes letting me know they’re cheering me on and how excited they are to have me in St. Louis again for commencement to celebrate with me!

I have been fortunate to be surrounded by my coworkers who believed in my abilities and wanted to see me do well. I’ve been fortunate to be backed by administrators who did not want to see me passed up for jobs they knew I was capable of doing only because I did not have the credentials. I had them all pushing me on every step of the way. They even allowed me to use each class as an opportunity to complete a real-life case study to research issues and possible solutions to resolve problems we were facing at the campus at the time. I was fortunate to have their trust to implement quite a few of those solutions. I’ve been lucky to have coworkers who call and check on me to make sure things are still going well and to talk me through the moments when I wasn’t sure I had what it took.

I am blessed to be a single mother! And although I’m sure that’s crazy to hear, it is the truth! I was 17 when I had my son and 21 when I had my daughter. There were a lot of sacrifices the three of us had to make. We had a lot of help from my parents, siblings, and extended family. There were quite a few people who never really thought I’d finish, and some days I agreed with them. But my son and daughter never stopped believing in their mom. Days when I felt I wasn’t a good enough mom because I still hadn’t finished that degree, my son reminded me of how far we had already come and how proud he was of his mother. Many days I would be up late doing homework and would oversleep the next morning, but they would keep me going. They would wake me up, make breakfast, and even iron my clothes on a few occasions. My mother would call often as she was in school herself. We would take study breaks and laugh about how much we were going to enjoy being finished. And when my mother crossed the stage, she smiled at me and said, “You’re next!” They reminded me there was too much at stake to stop. So, I kept going. May 12, 2018, we will take a short journey from Little Rock, Arkansas to St. Louis, Missouri so they will get to see me cross the stage.

Being a Webster employee, I thought it would be more difficult to finish the degree, but it was easier. It was easier because I was surrounded by people who believed in me! They were invested in my success story. My sister is a Webster alumna having earned her MPA in 2013. She was the person who told me to apply for the job in 2014, and because of her, I’m a member of the staff and becoming an alumna myself. When I asked her what Webster was like she responded, “they wanted to see me succeed as much as I wanted it for myself, so it should be a great place to work.” She was right!”