Fate led Robin Heminger back to college more than 20 years after it forced her to leave.
“I left college after I had reconstructive back surgery,” she said. “I was born with a birth defect in my spine, so I have had five surgeries to correct that defect. One of my surgeries occurred after my freshman year, and the rehabilitation took me away from college for so long. At that time, it made sense to go ahead and start working. I never went back.”
Never say never.
When her oldest son, Jacob (16), started an early college program two years ago, Heminger was inspired to pick up where she left off. Now she is on track to graduate from Lamar University’s online Bachelor of General Studies program in 2019, while Jacob will graduate from high school with an associate degree.
“It has always been a dream of mine,” she said. “I took a couple of classes here and there, but I never felt like I could do it and balance a career and parenting.”
Once she decided to return to school, Heminger found inspiration from two more family members. Her brother, Robert Watson, and sister-in-law, Angelia, are graduates of Lamar University online programs.
“They’re both teachers,” Heminger said. “They showed me how easy it was to balance everything with school — and they both coach. So, it seemed really feasible. It was all coming together. I felt like I could finally do this. Angelia is currently working on her doctorate with Lamar University in the education program.”
Back in the Saddle
Heminger started the online BGS program in the summer of 2016 so the transition would be smoother with her kids on break from school.
“I was able to get through two classes that first session,” she said. “From there, I could focus on school one or two nights a week and then on the weekends. It has worked out really well for me. Every evening I come home and do a little bit, maybe an hour or two of studying. Then, on the weekends, I usually do about four hours each day.
“It’s been a lot easier to manage than I expected. I only take two classes at a time. That’s the other good thing — the short semesters, the eight-week sessions. I really like those, because I am able to focus and concentrate on two classes at a time.”
Although she has not settled on an area of concentration yet, Heminger is leaning toward communications. She has already enjoyed the wide range of subject matter in the curriculum.
“History was never a subject I felt like I did very well in,” she said. “It was hard for me to memorize so many dates and names, but I had a Texas history class last semester and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I also really enjoyed the media writing class I just finished. I learned about what it takes to write like a reporter.”
Assurance Through Insurance
Not long after Heminger left the University of North Texas in 1993, she stumbled into a career in the insurance business that is still going strong. Heminger is a commercial underwriter for Farmers Insurance in Austin, Texas, where she has worked for six years.
“I’m very detail-oriented, and I like to investigate things,” she said. “I think those personality traits were natural for me to go into insurance. It was just a transition. I moved to a new area with my husband [Dale], and I was looking for a job. I didn’t seek out the career — it found me. The ability to help others and the investigative side appealed to me.”
Things have worked out well for Heminger, who is very happy with her career and her employer.
“I really love what I do,” she said. “I have career goals in mind with that company, to work in their training and development department. That’s why I think the communication classes are so appealing to me. They work with delivering information to large and diverse groups. That’s ultimately my goal. I just don’t want anything to hold me back. Getting my bachelor’s degree was more for myself — a personal accomplishment.”
The course Heminger found most applicable to her job was statistics.
“I learned about some programs and some applications,” Heminger said. “I’ve been able to use some of the knowledge I learned to analyze important data in my job. With the help of a team, I manage new business submissions in the Mountain Territory. I’m able to use some of the knowledge I gained in class to analyze and break down the information collected to a deeper level and understand what’s driving the trends.”
Heminger is appreciative of the inspiration and encouragement her family and friends have given her since she enrolled in the bachelor’s degree online program.
“Everyone has been really supportive ““ my husband especially,” she said. “He often takes on a lot more of the household duties than he used to. He also works full-time. It’s been wonderful.”
When she has some free time, Heminger enjoys the outdoors with her family, which includes her younger son, Matthew (10).
“We like to go camping in the hill country and in East Texas,” Heminger said. “My husband works for the Sherriff’s Department, so his schedule often takes him away overnight. He works late hours. Whenever we have time together, we go camping and get back in touch with nature. It’s a feeling like the world goes away.”
Even though Heminger will have more back surgeries in her future because of disc and joint deterioration, she is glad the online program at Lamar University came along to help her achieve her dream without stepping foot in a classroom. She would advise other adult learners to give it a try, too.
“A lot of people feel like college is like it used to be, where there is no way you could do it and balance a family,” Heminger said. “If you feel like you want it, you have to go for it. Try out a couple of classes for one semester and see how it goes. You will find that you have more free time than you thought you did.”
Heminger can’t wait until she can walk the graduation stage in cap and gown and come full circle from when she first started college after graduating from Rockwall High School.
“I am going to graduation because it has been a lifelong goal of mine,” she said. “I plan to pursue a master’s degree after that. I told my husband, ‘If I can do this, why don’t I just keep going? Why not?'”
Learn more about the Lamar University online Bachelor of General Studies program.