Theology graduate student Melissa Larson and seven of her nine kids.
“I met my husband in the midst of college and we got married and my passion turned into a wife and mother,” says Melissa Larson, age 44 and mom to nine children between the ages of 9 and 24. But eventually, “I felt like I was living a boring story,” she says. “I was created for more than just the role of wife and mother.”
She had a goal: teach adults at the college level. And she had a passion: theology. Enter the Master of Arts in Theological Studies program at the University of Northwestern-St. Paul, where Larson fit into the adult student population well.
“My adult learners are some of my best students,” says Randy Nelson, director of graduate programs in biblical and pastoral studies there. “Once they commit, they stick with it and do the work. My adult learners read those assigned pages, and they want to debrief those pages,” he says.
But a degree in a passion is still a risk for a grownup. “They come in with a lot of fear and trepidation. They have a lot of work and family and church responsibilities,” he says. “The time constraint is the biggest concern.”
Find a way, says Larson, who is considering a PhD program when she finishes her master’s. “People say they’re too busy, but if I can do it, you probably can too.”
If you want to follow a passion:
- Decide to live a better story. “Sometimes when you want something more, you actually have [to find a] purpose to do it,” Larson says.
- “Tell people you’re going to do it,” says Larson, and be held accountable.
- Grow with the writing. “There may be some red ink on there,” Nelson says. But after a while, writing papers “is not as traumatic as adult students thought in the beginning. I can actually see their papers getting better.”