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A Voice for Adult Students and Road Less Traveled, MCCC Grad Patricia Rodgers Heads to Rutgers this Fall


Patricia Rodgers bids a fond farewell to Mercer and prepares to start her studies at Rutgers University.

Posters created by Rodgers with her PTK classmates are displayed around the college, offering strategies for success.

West Windsor, N.J. – There was a time in Patricia Rodgers’ life ’17 (A.S., Information Technology) when her decades-old associate degree from the Fashion institute of Technology was enough to get her where she wanted to go. She began working in retail, most notably as a buyer for the famed Tiffany’s jewelry store in Manhattan.

During her 13 years with Tiffany’s, Rodgers says she learned about customer service at the highest level. In subsequent retail jobs, she enhanced that skill set and a whole bunch more. Then in the mid-2000s, Rodgers moved from Queens to Lawrenceville and motherhood became her main priority.

When her son, Kyle, was a preschooler, Rodgers returned to the retail industry. “Even after my experience at Tiffany’s, I was always asked if I had a four-year college degree,” she recalled.
Finally, in 2015, when it was time for Kyle to go to college at Montclair State University to study sports communications, Rodgers decided it was her turn too.

“I was laid off at the time and the Mercer County One-Stop Center offered to send me back to school at Mercer, first to earn my associate degree and then transfer for my bachelor’s degree. I passed the placement test and I was ready to go,” Rodgers recalled.

This was not Rodgers’ first attempt at completing her bachelor’s degree. Right out of high school, she headed to Boston University, but lost her way and dropped out after a personal tragedy. “This time around I am determined,” she said.” And, I got the support I needed at Mercer.

Rodgers decided to major in Information Technology, which had become a larger and larger part of her background in retail. “When we opened new stores, when there was new cash register software, when there was ordering or inventory to be done, I would be on the phone with the IT people. I was the one to set it up. I like computers.”

Rodgers says it was a little scary to return to the classroom as a mid-life career changer, but MCCC proved to be the perfect place to start. “I walked into my first class and it was all male – and I was the oldest student,” she recalled.

She took multiple courses taught by Professor Jeff Weichert, coordinator of the Information Technology program and her advisor. “He told me not to hesitate to come and see him if I had any problems. I needed to hear that. He also helped me select my courses,” she said.

Rodgers also sought out other students to tutor her if she was stuck, and spent time on the Internet accessing online resources including YouTube videos of professors from around the world, which bolstered her understanding of key IT concepts.

“My goal was to get ‘As,’” she emphasizes. “I believe that average students who are willing to do exceptional things are going to succeed. I am a voice for older students who are here to get the job done – right now.”

There are many at Mercer she recalls with warmth, including success coach Jehan Mohammed, PTK Advisor Jingrong Huang, Financial Aid Director Jason Taylor, Work Study Coordinator Mary Ann Tarr, and the employees in Office Services, where she worked part-time as part of MCCC’s Work Study program.

“All of them provided critical advice and support in various ways,” she said.

Rodgers blossomed at Mercer, earning such solid grades that she met the requirements for membership in the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) International Honor Society.

“When I first joined PTK, I helped to create motivational posters that we hung around campus,” she said proudly.

One course – outside the IT realm, but very pertinent to Rodgers’ own journey – was “Moral Choices,” taught by Professor Ken Howarth.

She was immediately inspired. “Philosophy is right up my alley,” she says. “It’s a way to make sense of things, to understand people better, to analyze why people feel the way they do, and to grasp how we can all be more compassionate.”

Rodgers will transfer to Rutgers University this fall, where she will major in Philosophy and minor in Information Technology. Her goals include examining homelessness and giving voice to those who are homeless. “I feel our society has lost its way. We are not compassionate enough. My desire is to look inward and search for reasons, ask questions, erase misconceptions, and start a new dialogue. I feel a strong sense of purpose and destiny in the pursuit of my continued education,” she said.

She will move into a dorm for adult students at Douglass College and immerse herself in her studies.

“I am very aware that this is not the usual way college is done. Despite all obstacles, something special is happening and I have an opportunity to obtain my bachelor’s degree. This is a blessing,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers has advice for other students. “Sit up front. Do all your homework. Get to know your professors and seek out the people who want to help you succeed. They are there if you are looking.”

Both Rodgers and her son are on track to earn their bachelor’s degrees in 2019.

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