Student Speaker: Barbara Wulff
Associate of Technical Arts in Business Management and a Project Management certificate
Barbara Wulff has always had a passion for learning, and believes education has the power to transform lives. She began her college journey as a senior in high school in 1993 through the Running Start program, which allows high school juniors and seniors to take college-level courses without paying tuition, and was the first student from her district to do so.
While it seemed like the transition from high school to college would be seamless for Wulff, life had other plans, making it challenging for her to stay in school. Over the years, she worked hard to support her young family as a single mom. Wulff’s hard work and determination paid off as she established herself in the business world, eventually becoming a project coordinator at Premera Blue Cross.
Through the company’s tuition assistance program, Wulff was able to return to the classroom. She took one or two online classes a year, working at her own pace, while maintaining family as her priority.
“School and education have always been very important to me, and I love learning” Wulff said, “and I also wanted to move forward in my career.”
After nine successful years with Premera, Wulff was laid off. She looked into Edmonds CC’s Worker Retraining program and found a fit, saying, “It just fell into place.”
Edmonds CC had the classes Wulff was interested in and the support services she was looking for, like those at the college’s Career Action Center where she now works. Through the college’s Worker Retraining program, Wulff was able to enroll as a full-time college student for the first time in many years.
“I could finally go after what I’ve wanted for my whole adult life – to finally get my degree,” Wulff said.
Wulff said her success in the business world, up until her layoff, could be attributed to her open minded and inquisitive nature, and being a self-starter, lifetime learner, and problem solver. However, her combined skills and experience alone were not enough to make her competitive in the current job market. Without a degree, Wulff said she would not be able to move ahead in her career.
At 42, Wulff will be graduating with her Associate of Technical Arts in Business Management and a Project Management certificate. Wulff said the classes she has taken and connections she’s made have already enriched her life, and she’s excited to see how her degree will enhance her future career opportunities.
Wulff’s advice to the graduating class, “Seek out new perspectives, experiences, and ways of thinking. Increase your awareness of how you talk to yourself and how you listen to the world around you. Slow down, be present to the moments that make up your life, and surround yourself with people who challenge and inspire you.”
Standing here, in front of you today, takes me back to the beginning of my college journey. At that time in my life, I could not imagine that one day I’d have the courage, confidence, and privilege to be speaking with you today.
My college journey started 25 years ago. I thought I’d make a smooth transition from high school to college. Life had other plans for me.
For the next 15 years, I made many attempts to go back to school, but I never finished. Then, after an additional six years, I tried one more time to complete my degree. I started taking one or two online classes a year while working and being a single mom to my children, Mercedes and Zach. They have always been my highest priority.
Then, last year one of life’s obstacle turned into an opportunity as a layoff led me to become a full-time student through the worker retraining program! And, it’s been amazing!
At times, I’d almost given up hope of getting my degree, and I feel so grateful to be here, with you, my fellow students in celebration of our accomplishments.
Let’s take a moment to be fully present to our current thoughts and feelings. What are you thinking, right now, in this moment? How are you feeling?
I feel excited, nervous, in wonderment, and alive! I’m in awe of the sight in front of me. I see my fellow students who have taught me so much and have helped to shape who I am.
I acknowledge you for your friendship, your courage, your determination to stick with it even when things are challenging, your support and acceptance of each other, and for the example you set for others in your lives.
Our greatest successes have come through connection with each other and some of my greatest class lessons have come from you.
Family and Friends, I acknowledge you for being here today and throughout our journeys. I want to especially acknowledge my son and daughter, who have walked this journey with me.
Through more take-out meals than I’d like to admit, too many missed conversations, and stressful finals weeks, and through it all, they have been supportive and patient. And also to my boyfriend, Tom, my mother Polly, and my brother, John, who have been there, often, at a moment’s notice to lighten the load.
Teachers and Staff, we wouldn’t be here without you. You have challenged us, inspired us, pushed us to work harder, be better, and come out ready to face the next chapters in our lives. I’ve had wonderful professors here who are passionate about their work, care about their students, and work hard for me, you, and those who will come after us.
The classes I’ve taken here at Edmonds Community College have enriched both my personal and professional life, and at age 42, I am graduating today with an associate’s degree in Business Management along with a Project Management certificate.
I am confident this degree and certificate will expand my career opportunities and open doors in my life.
Looking back on the first time I walked into a college classroom that many years ago, I was so sure I’d make a fool of myself, I was afraid of what people would think of me, and I felt that I did not belong. I was insecure and, to be honest, I was pretty lost.
As humans, we all have personal barriers that hold us back. We all have ways of talking to ourselves and hold onto personal beliefs that don’t support us in living the lives we want to live. Once we become aware of these barriers, we can begin the process of change. This is one of the greatest things about life’s journey.
Some of your journeys towards a college degree may have been long, like mine. For others, the journey has been much shorter. Each of our lives have taken different paths. And we each have our own powerful stories to share. While vastly different, each of us has had times of struggle, times of contentment, and times of great joy.
The times where fear was in control of my life are over, and today, I live without constant worry of what others will think of me. I no longer fear making a fool of myself.
Instead, I now have the courage to take chances and embrace my mistakes. They can lead to defining moments and open new pathways I couldn’t see before.
One of the greatest minds of our times, Albert Einstein said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”