Mary Clemens and Marcia Mannen were both able to throw their hats in the air this spring after graduating from the Master of Liberal Arts and the Master of Project Management Programs respectively.
“I wanted to get my master’s right after college, but I got married right away and then had a baby right after that,” Clemens said. So she put it off, but in 2007, Clemens started working at Washington University and realized that with the employee tuition benefit, she could finally earn her master’s in liberal arts.
At the time three of her daughters were in elementary school, and it wasn’t an easy decision for Clemens to go back to school. In part, Clemens said, “I did it for my children, so that they could see that education is important, no matter how old you are.”
In February 2010, Clemens’ sister was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, forcing Clemens to take some time off from her studies. In 2011, her sister passed.
Clemens focused on her family for the next few years, but decided to return to her program in summer 2014. Her first class back was Professor Henry I. Schvey’s The American Dream: Myth and Reality. In a personal essay about the American dream for class, Clemens wrote about how terminal illness impacts a family and its dream for the future.
“I had always envisioned myself getting older with my sister. I had to revise what my twilight years were going to be,” Clemens said. “And to have that class and to have the ability to write and work through those feelings was really cathartic and really helped me recover from what I’d gone through.”
Clemens kept that thread through the rest of her studies, eventually writing a master’s thesis titled “Grief and the Art of Survival” that looks at the many ways we memorialize lost loved ones, wars, catastrophes and other traumas.
“We are all on a journey,” Clemens said. “It can take us directly where we want to go, or on a circuitous route that we might never have imagined. I try to remind myself that every choice I’ve made along the way has lead me to where I am right now.”
Marcia Mannen recently completed her Master of Project Management (MPM) degree from the school of Engineering, Sever Institute. As the associate director of client support & web services at WashU, Marcia manages web projects in Arts & Sciences and she feels that this degree will help in her current role.
Marcia, who celebrated her momentous achievement with homebrew and homemade mead (of course!), will now finally have some free time, which she plans to spend with her very supportive family and chickens. Speaking of her chickens – we all have grown fond of them vicariously, right? – Marcia now has six new chicks, three of which are “bantams,” or miniature chickens!
Marcia really could write a Toastmasters speech on the many ways her advanced degree will contribute to her current role at Wash U. “Project Management is as much about leadership as it is about bringing in quality projects on time and on budget,” she says.
Former vice president of membership of WUSTL Speaks during the 2014-2015 year, Marcia believes that project management is also about understanding what motivates peoples’ behavior and therefore how to present information that they will respond to in a helpful way. The MPM graduate program, with its “wonderful faculty,” has helped Marcia to learn how Project Managers put this into practice.
Already, her team in the Arts & Sciences Computing Center has been open to incorporating new ways of communicating, tracking, and organizing their work. “We are now testing out the Agile development philosophy and our fellow toastmaster, Matt Carlson, has been incredibly helpful as a resource for our team while learning it,” she says.