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Her turn: Wife, mother earns degree

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Georgia Rasmussen is anxious to get her diploma from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

It’s a moment the married mother of three children, and grandmother of five, has been anticipating for 43 years.

“It was just something I always wanted to do,” said Rasmussen, who will be awarded a bachelor’s degree in General Studies, with a concentration in behavioral science, at Spring 2014 Commencement ceremonies.

Georgia was just shy of earning a degree from UL Lafayette in 1971, when she, husband Mike and their young son moved to California. Mike, who earned a computer science degree from UL Lafayette in 1970, had enlisted in the U.S. Navy, and would remain stationed in San Diego for four years.

At the time of the move, Georgia had earned 129 hours as an elementary education major. She planned to complete a few remaining degree requirements once the family got settled. But, as she puts it, “life happened.”

The couple shared one car, which made attending college classes difficult. Tuition costs in California turned out to be higher than expected. And, as the demands of family life slowly took over, Georgia’s college dreams receded.

But they never faded completely. Last fall, she enrolled in the University’s distance learning program. “It was my turn,” Georgia quipped. Mike, who earned two advanced degrees over the years, agrees. He says “Gee Gee,” as he calls Georgia, spent years putting her family’s needs first.

The couple, who moved to the New Orleans area after Mike retired from the Navy, raised three children - two sons and a daughter - before relocating to Matthews, N.C. in 1998.

Along the way, Georgia made “significant contributions to our community in city government, the local school system, community hospital, social organizations and Chamber of Commerce,” Mike stated via email.

Her devotion helped all of the couple’s children earn college degrees, and go on to successful careers. Michael, 44, is a restaurant manager in North Carolina; Christopher, 39, is an attorney in Chicago; and Karen Foster, 35, is an office manager in North Carolina.

When Georgia decided to finish her own degree requirements, she began exploring options. She visited the University, where she learned she had retained 120 hours, and needed only 11 credit hours to earn her degree.

She studied remotely from the family’s North Carolina home, despite working full-time as a manager at H&R Block. She took online courses in computer science, business writing and health, and communicated with professors via Skype and email.

“It was quite an experience,” she says with a laugh, “but I’m extremely glad I did it.”