For years, Julie Taylor felt that something in her life was missing. So when her 50th birthday approached, she set her sights on meeting her most significant goal: earning her college degree.
Taylor had attended Bentley University after high school and later earned her associates degree in engineering. And while she always wanted to finish, being a stay-at-home mom of four took priority. That, and her passion for town government. “I’ve always been fascinated by politics,” she says. “I got so involved in our small-town political scene that people started bringing their problems to me,” she says. “Then they began encouraging me to run for office.” In 2001, she went for it, and was elected selectman of Berkley.
Taylor toyed with the idea of pursuing politics further but knew that not having a college degree could hold her back. So a few years ago, with her kids nearly grown and with her birthday a source of motivation, she knew it was time to take the next step and go back to school.
On the fast track
She had just been accepted to the Political Science program at Northeastern when she discovered the University’s Fast-Track bachelor’s in Leadership degree at the College of Professional Studies, a program designed to build on her associates degree credit to earn a bachelor’s in 18 months. “I thought it’d be a great field to study and liked that I could do it in 18 months,” she says. “I was prepared for it being intense, but little did I know what a fabulous program it would be, and how it would change my life.”
The idea of juggling her job (working for small survey company preparing mortgage inspection plans) and going to school was intimidating. “I hadn’t been exposed to hybrid learning classes,” Taylor remembers.
So she was relieved to find that her “cohort” – the same 16 people who take the program at the same time – was a supportive group of professionals who mentored and coached one another, and who had a lot in common. “A lot of us felt that we missed out not finishing our college degrees,” she says. “I was so lucky—we became like a family.”
Taylor found her critical thinking and writing course to be especially useful, since it pushed her to focus on her writing—a skill set she wanted to improve. At her 2010 gradation, she was bursting with pride—a sentiment she shared with her classmates. “Many of us felt that getting our degree validated our intelligence and allowed us to say, ‘Look what I’ve accomplished.’”
A scholarship sweetens the pot
Because she’d whizzed through the Leadership program in less than two years, Taylor still had some time on the clock before her birthday. She’d found her classes both relevant and inspiring, so she considered staying at Northeastern to earn her Master’s in Public Administration (MPA). Being awarded a Double Husky scholarship, which gives alumni with a bachelor’s degree from Northeastern a tuition discount of up to 25 percent, clinched the decision for her.
“The scholarship made it a no-brainer,” she says. “It made it possible to continue at the university that I knew I loved, and, of course, it cost a lot less.” Taylor was surprised (and quite happy) to learn that her scholarship lasted for the full two-year program.
Setting her sights on the future
The skills Taylor learned in both the Leadership and Public Administration programs came together to inform what she’s doing now: writing position papers for political candidates running for public office, including a lieutenant governor campaign. “It’s funny; I struggled with writing when I started the Leadership program, and now I write for a living,” she says. “The seeds I’ve sown are starting to blossom.”
Taylor is exploring opportunities in state government in areas that piqued her interest at school, namely education. “A lot more needs to be done for at-risk families, and we need to invest in young people at an even earlier age,” she says.
Thanks to the Double Husky scholarship, Taylor sees first-hand the importance of investing in people’s education; she’s grateful that it allowed her to be in the position where she can now invest in others.
“For working adults with families like me, it makes it possible to continue your education, get a job, and set an example for your own children,” she says. It looks like Taylor’s youngest daughter has taken her mother’s success to heart. “She wants to be a nurse. She’s only 15 and is already thinking about going to Northeastern.”