Graduating gives students more than a degree

Hello, my name is David Cartledge, and I am a recent graduate of Northern Kentucky University and, as it turns out, my graduation involves some unusual and interesting circumstances. Circumstances, I feel, should be shared with the current students and alumni as an example of the importance of not giving up and achieving what one sets out to accomplish. My date of graduation was Aug. 12, 2006. My last month of classes? March of 2001.

I began my studies with Northern in the spring semester of 1997 as a theater major. I decided to invest some time early in my general studies courses. In doing so, I realized I had a thirst for knowledge in a variety of fields and I backed away from extensive theater classes so I could pick subjects from a wide spectrum of subjects and areas, including Political Science, Math, Geography, English and even Chemistry.

My grades were good – I even maintained a 4.0 GPA during my first two years of classes. For better or worse, I became somewhat overzealous, not realizing the extent of my capabilities or thinking about which direction my life should follow. In a state of confusion, which every college freshman and sophomore can relate to, I chose chemistry as my major.

I dove into the courses eagerly, but I quickly realized how challenging they were. I also continued to take more general studies courses than was necessary, as I wanted to have an overall education in as many areas as possible. I even studied German for three semesters.

Unfortunately, in the spring of 2001, I was beginning to experience some personal problems that led me to abandon college after four-and-a-half years of living on campus, taking a full load of classes, and making new friends.

I never looked back. I told myself one day I would eventually return to finish my education and join the group of successful people who are college graduates.

Since that time, I have moved to Los Angeles, married a beautiful woman from Ecuador, and started a career as a medical bill reviewer for the largest workers compensation insurance carrier in the state. Earlier last year, I began to consider myself a successful person in almost every area of life – except for the fact that I was technically a “college dropout” for the last five years.

That got me thinking, and I decided to contact the university to see if the time I had spent at NKU gave me any sort of significant eligibility. After a great deal of time on the phone speaking with various faculty members, I learned that there was a degree I qualified for, based on the many general studies courses I took.

As it turned out, I was now able to receive an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Studies. To her credit, Jennifer Webster , a department assistant, helped me with all the necessary paperwork while I, 2,000 miles away, re-applied for admission and filled out the graduation forms.

Because of my decision to neither give up nor leave the important parts of my life unfinished, I was rewarded with a diploma last August. And even though I am already well established in my career, I no longer have the burden of labeling myself as a dropout. After five years of carrying that chip on my shoulder, I can take much comfort knowing that the years of studying I invested at NKU have paid off, and I am now a proud alumnus.

I have framed my diploma and placed it where I can see it everyday, and I was delighted when my first issue of Northern magazine arrived in my mailbox.

I do take full responsibility for prematurely ending my studies, as well as the fact that I waited so long before I fully investigated all of my available options, but I strongly feel that my story should be shared. Countless young people haven’t declared a major, or chose a subject in which they have no real interest.

With the turnover rate of students so high the first couple of years, I wanted my story to be made public so that students learn the importance of graduating. It is significant on many levels, and it is important to not give up on something you start in life.

Finishing your education shows that you chose success over failure, and even if you choose a career other than what your course of study is, you will always have the proud satisfaction of knowing that you earned something substantial. A diploma is something that can never be taken away from someone who earns one, and that alone is an accomplishment worth fighting for.

The Liberal Studies Associate’s program is a wonderful way to keep students in school and away from being overwhelmed or losing interest in graduating.

Thank you for your time in reading this.

David A. Cartledge NKU Alumnus ’06 Valley Village, CA