SOU grads ready to celebrate

It's Champagne Time.

Or, Barbecue Time in Sharon water's case. A big barbecue is planned for the soon-to-be SOU graduate with plenty of microbrewed beer.

water has a lot to celebrate. She just completed a double major in geology and German, and won a top scholarship that will pay for her to on to the University of Wyoming in Laramie, where she'll work for a master's in geology.

water didn't plan on attending SOU, but she said after spending her first year there, she never would have left. Her choice of geology as a major wasn't exactly planned either. While attending North Medford High, she happened to take a college credit course to fulfill her science requirement. That course was geology and she found herself hooked. She'll specialize in sedimentology, the study of tectonic rock, rock layers and where water comes from.

water called SOU a "hidden gem" and thinks the university doesn't get the credit it deserves. Like her classmates, however, she was shocked to see the geology program dumped as a result of the university's budget woes. German, because of its small size, wasn't such a surprise.

"It was frustrating to see a good program get swept away," she said.

Although she and her fellow students struggled to save the program, it was beyond their power. They did, however, manage to save the job of a key professor.

Ultimately, water wants to become a professor herself. And if she had her way, it would be at SOU, but she doesn't know if geology and SOU have a future together.

While water hopes to eventually circle back, others have their flight plans in place.

Sue McDonough, who started college the same time as her youngest daughter, Melissa Wilson, is about to fulfill a longtime desire of making a move to Alaska. McDonough started as a nursing student at SOU 32 years ago.

"Instead of getting a degree, I got a husband," she said. "He gave me three children and then left me."

As a single mom, she worked for years in low-paying jobs trying to keep it together to provide for her children. When her youngest needed a copy of her tax return to apply for financial aid, that's when McDonough thought, "I can do it, too."

And she did.

Thoughts crossed her mind like, "Oh gosh, can I do this at my age?" She worried about being in classes with younger students. "It was hard for me at first to open up and start sharing," she said. "Then I started to realize, 'Hey, I've got a lot of good advice.'"

McDonough, who opted to major in psychology, was attending school at the same time as all three children. Her son graduated from SOU in 2005 with a degree in computer science. Her daughter finished in 2006 with a degree in art illustration. And McDonough will graduate this year with her youngest daughter, who's leaving with a degree in human communication. There was a lot of mutual encouragement to keep the whole show going.

Wilson said starting at SOU and picking a major was difficult.

"I literally opened the catalog and said, 'That's it'&

and it worked out," she said. "But I didn't know you could do a double major and I wish someone would have emphasized I could have done that."

McDonough plans to go for a master's degree and will likely go to be a counselor, but also feels like she's at the tip of the iceberg of what there is to learn. She's particularly fascinated with the physiology of the brain: What's happening physiologically during the thought process, the memory process, the dreaming process?

One thing she came to realize is that going back to school at a later age &

with all her life experiences, including the bad times &

gives her a big advantage over her younger counterparts.

Wilson, who worked three jobs while getting through school carrying 20 credits a term at times, considers her mother more of an overachiever than she is.

Joking about taking a couple of psychology classes together, she said, "She did a good job of embarrassing me in class," referring to an occasion when her mother exclaimed, "I gave birth to you 22 years ago."

Wilson, who's going to give public relations work a shot, said that was OK, since her mother is her best friend. They seemed to have their cycles of up and down together.

"It was almost like we were on the same page," she said, talking about how they'd bitch and moan together when they got to the point of wondering how many more exams they could take.

They'd hoped to be able to walk up and receive their diplomas together, but too many other people had already put in their requests to do so.

"I'm very excited for her," Wilson said. "I'm glad she's got three kids who graduated and she got herself graduated too."

"It's been a bang-up year," said McDonough.

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