“I don’t like to do something and not finish it. That’s just my personality.”

Milly Wilkinson enrolled at MSU in 1964 to pursue a degree in accounting but ended up leaving just shy of completion. She was willing to forgo her graduation to move with her husband to find work. Milly persevered through every obstacle thrown her way and ended up walking across the Mississippi State University stage over 50 years later to receive her diploma. With an amazing support system, a relentless inner drive, and help from C2C, Milly was able to accomplish her lifelong goal of receiving a college degree - proof that it’s never too late. Although Milly won’t be returning to work, her degree is an inspiration for her whole family.

Life goes on but the desire remains strong

After a short stint in Jackson, Milly and her husband ended up in Ocala, Florida for work. Although she had originally planned to finish her degree in Florida, the Wilkinsons quickly found themselves with six beautiful children to raise. In addition to caring for her family, Milly found work as a medical assistant for an OB-GYN and a pediatrician. Her graduation had to be put on the back burner to handle these new responsibilities, but Milly’s desire to complete her degree never went away.

Another attempt in Florida

Fast forward a few years and Milly decided to take another crack at earning her degree. She approached the University of Florida to see what opportunities they provided. Unfortunately, as Milly recalls, “They were very discouraging.” After realizing that she wouldn’t move because of her life in Ocala, the school asked why she would bother to return at all. Despite facing yet another setback, Milly held onto that desire to graduate.

“I couldn’t get it out of my mind.”

A serendipitous move

When Milly and her husband retired, they decided to move from Florida to be closer to their family. No matter where Milly went or what she experienced, her desire to graduate remained strong. While working at Vacation Bible School, Milly found herself in a conversation with a friend who was adamant about her son graduating from college. Milly shared her own experience pursuing her degree but figured she was too old to complete. “No, you’re not”, Milly’s friend reassured her. This friend encouraged Milly to contact Mississippi State to see what they could do. “So that’s what I did”, Milly explains.

C2C finds a way

Milly Wilkinson and her C2C Coach Kali Dunlap worked together to figure out the best path forward towards graduation. During her previous time at MSU, Milly had taken a significant number of classes towards an accounting major. These prior credits, as her C2C Coach explained, were just shy of being enough for Milly to earn the University Studies degree - a valuable feature of the C2C program designed specifically for students who have earned 90 or more college credits but stopped short of graduation.

After reviewing Milly’s professional and academic history, her C2C Coach realized that she might be eligible for credit based on her work experience and some previous classes she had completed. Milly took a Nursing Assistant course to further her career. Her C2C Coach was able to determine that this course could count as technical credit towards the 120 hours required for the University Studies degree. These technical credits are a great way for adult learners to take full advantage of coursework they’ve completed in the past to put towards their new degree through the C2C program. Milly ended up getting 6 hours of elective credit for her work history too!

The C2C Program strives to identify as much credit value as possible from a returning student’s work and school history in order to put them in the best position to graduate quickly. In the end, Milly and her C2C Coach determined that she only needed 4 hours’ worth of coursework to finally graduate.

Flexibility through online classes

The timing of the C2C program couldn’t have been better for Milly who was looking after her 3 young grandchildren at the time. Her courses started right when her grandsons went to school full-time. Realizing the perfect opportunity, she made an effort to get a little bit of school work done every morning when she had time to herself. By the time school let out and her grandchildren returned home, she was able to give them her full attention.

The flexibility of online classes through the C2C program was perfect for Milly who still had an active family life to attend to. Although using the computer for classes was a bit of a learning curve, Milly loved the convenience that came with having all of her lessons, assignments, and lectures in one place. That way, she could complete her degree without disrupting her daily life. With the freedom offered through online classes, some helpful computer tips from family members, and guidance from her C2C Coach, Milly successfully juggled school and family life.

Importance of a support system

On her path to graduation, Milly was met with many challenges. In addition to raising her family and working a demanding job, there were some naysayers that weren’t encouraging in Milly’s desire to pursue her degree. Milly explains, “I did have people that didn’t understand why I was doing it.” Throughout all of these obstacles though, she was able to rely on a continuous support system that helped keep her motivated. Whether it was an encouraging message from her C2C Coach, a crash course in computers from her daughter, or a tip from a friend in church, these people believed in her, and as Milly explains, “as long as I had people that did...I was fine.”

C2C Coaches are there to provide unwavering assistance for their online students. As Milly’s C2C Coach, Kali Dunlap explains, “my position is to be an advocate for all of my online students...they place all trust in me to guide, direct, and be their advocate on campus throughout their time here.” Milly certainly felt this support through all of the ups and downs of the process. Even with online classes, C2C students like Milly receive the full attention of their coaches.

A graduation to remember

In just one semester after returning to college, Milly had finally accomplished her lifelong goal of graduation. What made it even better - she was able to walk across the stage at the same school where she had originally attended with her husband in 1964. Everything came full circle, and Milly’s support system was there to celebrate this special day with her.

Milly’s C2C Coach Kali Dunlap was ecstatic to finally meet the recent graduate and quickly introduced her to the Dean and a host of other MSU staff. Although Milly hadn’t stepped foot on the campus since 1966, she felt like it was a homecoming. “It was like they were welcoming me all over again.”

For Milly, her graduation day remains as one of the most wonderful memories of her life. The experience was equally meaningful for Milly’s C2C Coach Kali Dunlap who said, “Just knowing that I have had and will continue to have a positive impact in the lives of students like Milly empowers me to continue doing the work that I love to do!”

Turn that drive into a diploma

If you have a desire to return to college to finish your degree but haven’t found a path forward yet, consider working with a C2C Coach to see how close you could be to graduating today. Over 1,300 Mississippi adults have already taken advantage of the C2C program to secure their degree. This program was designed specifically to help adult learners return to school. No matter how long it’s been since your last college class, it’s never too late to complete. After you’re enrolled in the program, you’ll be paired with a dedicated C2C Coach who will guide you through the process of returning to complete your degree.