Amanda Lucas ’22, chemistry major and McNulty Scholar, will be heading to Cornell University after graduation where she will be working toward her Ph.D. in organic chemistry and teaching in undergraduate labs.
Saint Joseph’s University’s students are multifaceted. No one exemplifies this like the University’s adult learners.
Ekawati Phiong ’22, 44, is a student at Saint Joseph’s, nearly finished with her bachelor’s degree in business administration. And she is a mother of a 14-year-old, a 15-year-old and an 18-year-old, working full time for the Office of Homeless Services.
She is also one of 15 Saint Joseph’s students who collectively earned $50,000 in grant funds as a recipient of the Charlotte Newcombe scholarship.
The Charlotte W. Newcombe foundation — named for a Philadelphia native committed to improving access to higher education — awards grants to colleges and universities who then in turn administer funds to nontraditional students who demonstrate academic success and financial need. Saint Joseph’s students have benefited from the grant since 2008.
Josh Power, Ed.D., executive director of graduate and extended studies, was part of the University’s selection committee this year. To qualify, he says, applicants write a personal statement, explaining how the award would help them progress in their degree program. Students must be 25 years of age or older and registered for at least six credits in the fall semester.
“The hope is that this scholarship can keep someone on track and ultimately help them reach their goal of degree completion,” he says. “I'm really inspired by the commitment that all of our students — especially our adult students — have to this goal of earning a bachelor's degree.”
Phiong says the Charlotte Newcombe scholarship and flexibility of online courses allowed her to take five classes in the spring. Another installment of the scholarship helped her pay entirely for this semester’s three-course load without loans.
With the ability to take extra classes, she’ll graduate with her bachelor’s degree in business administration this spring. She also plans to stay on a little bit longer to earn her master’s degree in business intelligence and analytics through the University’s 4+1 program.
“That’s a new challenge for me,” Phiong says. “I’m going to give it a try.”
But Phiong isn’t a stranger to challenging herself.
I'm really inspired by the commitment that all of our students — especially our adult students — have to this goal of earning a bachelor's degree.
In 2001, she moved, by herself, from Indonesia to Philadelphia in pursuit of financial stability. She came for opportunity, she says.
In her home country, she studied accounting. As a lover of numbers, she decided to take a similar path in her education in the U.S. Working for the school district, she was able to take classes at Community College of Philadelphia and have one class per semester paid for. After graduating with her associate’s degree in business, she had a few options to transfer.
Phiong says she didn’t know much about Saint Joseph’s, but that the discounted tuition for city employees and financial aid opportunities made her a Hawk.
And she’s happy she landed here.
“When I started with CCP, I felt like I was too old to be in the class,” Phiong says. “But when I came to St. Joe’s — they have a program for adult learners — I felt more confident with the program. I didn’t feel like ‘I’m too old to join that.’ I felt like, ‘OK, St. Joe’s is not only for younger people, it's also for adults.’”
Each day, Phiong juggles full-time work, classes and caring for three teenagers. Next year, her son will also be a college student, who plans to study engineering.
“Honestly, it’s kind of crazy,” she says with a laugh. “I don't really have enough time for me. Luckily, now my kids are growing so they help me out with the household. It’s easier.”
It’s all worth it, though, she says, as she works toward her goal of finding a job in her field once she graduates with her master’s.
“Our adult learners are like superheroes,” says Power. “They’re parents, professionals, coaches, caregivers of elderly family members, and they’re also students.”