I had always been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but growing up in Denver, Colorado, I was naively unaware of the significance of green Jello, EFY, and the Osmonds. Those little gems of LDS culture were lost on me. But the one thing I was certain of? I was going to attend Brigham Young University.
When it came time to apply to colleges, I single-mindedly applied only to BYU, not even imagining that I would go anywhere else. The day the acceptance letter came, I was ecstatic. (And looking back with more experience, I was very grateful. No safety schools? Are you kidding me?)
Heading off to BYU in the fall of 1992, I had a typical freshman experience, staying in the dorms at Deseret Towers with shared bathrooms, pullout beds, meals at the Morris Center, and an amazing roommate and friends. As my mom and dad dropped me off that first day, my dad said to me, “There is more to learn at college than what they teach you in class.” I took those words to heart and had a fantastic freshman year, learning lots of life lessons including the lesson that if you don’t spend enough time studying, your grades will slip.
After my sophomore year, I decided to serve a mission. When I returned from Bahia Blanca, Argentina in the summer of 1996, I had very little money, so instead of going back to school I moved to Salt Lake City and got a job, where I met my husband, Carl, who was a graduate student at the U of U in American Studies. A year after we were married, we had our son, Nathanael, and my life was full and busy. But there was a constant buzz in the back of my mind, urging me to go back to BYU and finish my bachelor’s degree even though it seemed impossible at the time.
While earning his graduate degree, Carl taught adjunct classes at the U of U and BYU to help make ends meet. During his time at BYU, I learned about the BYU Salt Lake Center where you could “earn BYU credit without being admitted.” At this point, we were living in student housing at the U of U and were the very definition of poor college students. I was concerned about being readmitted to BYU because my grades were less than stellar on account of the amazing life lessons I learned my freshman and sophomore years, so I formulated a plan. I was going to take a few classes at the BYU Salt Lake Center, get good grades, and then reapply for full admission to BYU.
In the fall of 2000, I registered for two classes at the BYU Salt Lake Center and had a great experience. I spent two semesters there, got good grades, and then applied for readmission to BYU for the fall of 2001. After being readmitted, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Marriage, Family, and Human Development in December of 2003. I am grateful to have had the option of the Salt Lake Center to further my education. Without it, I’m not sure I would have taken the steps necessary to return to school full time and graduate with my degree.
But this is not where my story with the Salt Lake Center ends. In the fall of 2002, Carl was hired as an assistant professor in Comparative Arts and Letters at BYU. This opened a whole new world to me. Because of the tuition benefit BYU offers, the whole BYU course catalog was my new playground. I’ve always loved learning new things, and this was my opportunity to sample many different subjects. Over time, I took classes here and there on campus, enjoying the experience. Feeling like I couldn’t justify passing up a chance at more education, in the fall of 2012, I was officially accepted into the EMPA (Executive Master of Public Administration) program offered exclusively at the Salt Lake Center in downtown Salt Lake.
At that time, I was working full-time for the Church at the Granite Mountain Records Vault. Without the option of the Salt Lake Center, I would not have been able to go to graduate school while continuing to work. I’m so glad I took advantage of the opportunity offered to me because ultimately, it led me to my dream job. Not long after graduating with my EMPA in the summer of 2015, I was hired as the University Cash Manager at BYU. I would not have been qualified for this position without my master’s degree – and I would not have a master’s degree without the BYU Salt Lake Center.