Vicki Moore-Holzhauer, a licensed practical nurse and appointment manager at Case Western Reserve University Health Services, needs to complete just two credit hours next semester to earn her bachelor's degree. It's a personal project that's been a couple decades in the making.
"I started taking classes because it was fun, with no thought of a degree," she said. "After a while I reached a point where I looked and had a lot of credits. I thought 'maybe I could make a commitment to finish.'"
It's a journey that is really 40 years in the making. After graduating from Cleveland's Hoban Dominican High School in 1969, Moore-Holzhauer embarked on a career as an LPN, working at area medical centers like University Hospitals, Cleveland Clinic and Deaconness Hospital until 1988. Then, at the recommendation of a friend, she applied for and accepted a position with University Health Services.
Even before she started working at Case Western Reserve, Moore-Holzhauer and her husband, Lorence, a mechanical engineer with URS Corporation, regularly attended on-campus lecturers and educational programs. After finding out about the opportunity to audit courses as a staff member, the 20-year professional mother of two preteen daughters returned to the classroom in 1989.
"When I first started taking classes, it was because it was a benefit," said Moore-Holzhauer, who regularly crossed the campus between home and her after school job at University Hospitals as a teenager. "I was aware that you could take classes for free and they encouraged the employees to do that. I couldn't pass up the opportunity.
"I started out with a history class and a dance class; the dance class was harder than the history class," she joked. "I had those six credits and I enjoyed it. So, I thought I'd keep going and take some more."
But, with a full-time job and two young children at home, Moore-Holzhauer couldn't occupy as much of her time with classes. She felt missing out on soccer games and not helping with evening homework was taking away from her time with the family. And she didn't want co-workers to have to cover for her at work. So, she would take just a class or two at a time.
But after her daughters completed college and began their own professional careers—Amanda is an attorney at a New York City law firm and Laura works for an architectural firm in Columbus, Ohio—Moore-Holzhauer decided she was so close to the end to not complete the task.
And when her task is complete, she'll have a bachelor's degree— not in a medically related field, but in political science.
"History and political sciencer were the two things I was always excited about, maybe I would have been a civics teacher," Moore-Holzhauer said. "Had I gone to college right out of high school, it would have been (to study) political science."
And her interest in political science recently landed her a unique experience. Through Professor Alexander Lamis, Moore-Holzhauer, along with friends and family, were participants in a French television documentary on the recent presidential election.
The production company talked with people from all walks of life and socioeconomic statuses, including whites, African-Americans, Barack Obama supporters, John McCain supporters, even those—like a family friend from Youngstown who watched the second presidential debate with the family and TV crew— who still supported Hillary Clinton. The focus was on Ohio as a battleground state and getting to know what a variety of voters in the state thought about the candidates and the issues facing the country leading up to the November elections.
"(The crew) wanted to get to know the people of Ohio and wanted to meet a variety of people," said Moore-Holzhauer. "They wanted to meet with African-American families, families with economic struggles, Obama supporters and McCain supporters. They really wanted to know what people are thinking about during the election. Together we all watched the debate, they watched for our reactions. They just wanted to watch us interact and asked questions of our reactions and interactions. I tried to have an eclectic mix at our house that night."
Watch the documentary (French): http://www.publicsenat.fr/cms/video-a-la-demande/vod.html?idE=59962.
While a recent turn as an international television "star" doesn't have her dreaming of an acting career, her course of study could very well lead Moore-Holzhauer into the next stage of her life.
"As weird as this sounds, at 56, I still have aspirations to do other things," she said. "I want to do more. Maybe social work, because it speaks to both concerns I'm interested in- political situations and health issues. Maybe even graduate school."
For Moore-Holzhauer completing the journey this year is important for several reasons. There are yearly milestone markers (40 years after high school, 20 years after starting) to hit and family equality to put to an end (she says its "embarrassing" that her husband, daughters and all her friends have earned their degrees).
And even though the undergraduate experience took her longer than most, it's been an enriching and enlightening one.
"It's totally worth it. It's been fun. It's been hard because it takes time, but most of the time it's been a blast. I love taking classes. You're surrounded by not just a lot of ideas but by a lot of different people. You're surrounded by interesting young people. You learn a lot from them and it keeps you young, too. It's been very rewarding. I wouldn't have done it any differently… well, maybe a little faster."
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