Dixie Darr

Perpetual Student

In Degree programs, Learning, work on June 1, 2017 at 6:36 am

It took me three colleges, six majors, and twelve years to earn my bachelor’s degree.

During my senior year of high school I discovered that my dad opposed my going to college because “Girls don’t need college.” My mom wouldn’t fight my dad. I would get no help from them.

I went anyway.

My grades earned me a full scholarship to Colorado State University, which wasn’t really that big a deal back then. Tuition was cheap. I had enough money from a summer job and an insurance settlement from a car accident to pay for the first year.

I picked CSU because it wasn’t Playboy’s #1 party school in the country as CU was. I didn’t like parties. I was going to college to learn. What a concept, huh?

Almost everything about it I hated—living in a dorm with a roommate, oh, my God. That was the worst. Girls had strict hours, but boys could come and go as they pleased. My one fond memory of that long-ago year was demonstrating against that policy (and getting demerits for staying out past 10 p.m. for the demonstration).

After the first year, I quit, out of money and out of spirit.

I worked in clerical jobs I hated and that kept me on the brink of poverty. Got married. Got divorced.

Then my mom got a job at what is now Front Range Community College, but then was the Community College of Denver, North Campus. Housed in temporary buildings in a field in south Adams County, this college suited me. I fit into the small adult student population of outcasts and misfits and studied sign language.

After graduation, I learned that there were no jobs in interpreting for the deaf and ended up back in a clerical job, this time at the college.

Flash forward a few years and I was sick to death of clerical work and of beating my head against a wall that required a bachelor’s degree for any job that interested me. I pored over the CU Denver catalog and determined that I could finish a degree in sociology—barely—in a year. I figured I could hang in there for one year. Along the way I had majored in art, philosophy, sign language, anthropology, psychology, and sociology.

I quit my job and enrolled at the newly completed Auraria Campus. Once again, my fellow students were oddballs like me. These days they call us nontraditional students. And this time, I finished with both a BA and a Phi Beta Kappa key. I was thirty years old. Having a degree profoundly changed my life, my prospects, and my self image, although it took years to whittle away the chip on my shoulder.

Three years later I went back to CSU for a master’s in adult education.

My mom called me a perpetual student, and she didn’t mean it as a compliment. She was right, though. Although I was through with education, I never stopped learning. That’s why I call my blog the Constant Learner.

You won’t catch me in a classroom these days. My learning is outside the box.

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