A Pathway Leading to Degree Completion: One Adult Student’s Successful Journey at Chestnut Hill College

Image via Patricia Dougherty-Gahm at CHC.

An investment in yourself, such as a college education, helps you create a viable future both personally and professionally.

Even with this knowledge, it is often difficult for adults to start or return to college. The thought of attending classes, managing homework, juggling family and work obligations along with concerns regarding cost can be overwhelming.

Patricia Dougherty-Gahm was an adult student with similar concerns.  After completing her associate’s degree at Montgomery County Community College (MCCC), she knew she wanted to continue on for a bachelor’s degree.

Patti was concerned about the time it would take and how that would affect her job and her family. She was also concerned about the cost.

“When I was in the process of finishing my degree at MCCC, I began looking to transfer into a program to complete my bachelor’s. I can honestly say that I was a little more than overwhelmed by everything. This was a decision that I did not take lightly; it was made not only with myself in mind but my family and our future. There were many sleepless nights thinking about my decision,” Patti recalls.

Patti started attending college classes at MCCC after her youngest daughter went to kindergarten, registering for one class to start. “My plan at first was to get back into the swing of doing all the reading and the homework. I started out by taking one class each semester for the first few years,” she said.  This helped me to focus on each class, take care of my family and work.”

“Once I was close to completing my associate’s degree, I contacted Chestnut Hill College (CHC) through their partnership with the University Center at MCCC. I also met with Cathy Kushnerick, CHC’s Off-Site Program Coordinator and Advisor, “Patti recalled.

Upon meeting Cathy for the first time, I knew this was the right decision and the right college for me. Cathy took the time to listen and to explain everything to me. She broke down what classes would transfer from MCCC and I was able to transfer in all of my credits from MCCC,” explains Patti, “That was exciting.”

“Cathy also understood the daily trials of a working parent including all the responsibilities that go along with adult student lives,” she recalled.

The University Center Partnership between MCCC and CHC helped to create a smooth transition for Patti.  “I was able to take all of my courses on the MCCC campus, where I felt comfortable. This also eliminated a long commute for me since I took my courses on the Pottstown campus. I also had the same advisor during my entire time at CHC.”

“This made everything easier,” she says. “My advisor met with me every semester, registered me for classes and helped me navigate the financial aid process. I felt I really had someone in my corner and someone who got to know me as an individual,” said Patti.

“I received financial aid to complete my degree, and was eligible, to receive a 25% tuition discount on CHC’s tuition, due to my GPA,” Patti added.

Patti was also able to complete her Master’s degree in Human Service Management through the University Center partnership.  She attended her graduate classes on MCCC’s Pottstown campus, and by the time she graduated, she had earned an associate’s degree in Human Services with a concentration in Youth and Family from MCCC, a bachelor’s degree in Human Services and a Master’s degree in Human Service Management from CHC all while attending classes at the Pottstown location.

An added benefit, according to Patti, included the accelerated course format. Each course for her bachelor’s and master’s degree was scheduled in an 8-week format. This allowed Patti to complete her bachelor’s degree in 16 months.

Patti also took advantage of the combined bachelor’s/master’s degree program, which allowed her to complete her master’s degree within 2 years.

Patti currently works for the Penn Foundation as an Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) Team member. She works as a Vocational Specialist on the team. “My job is to provide clinical guidance to the team about a client’s vocational and educational goals. With these goals in mind, the team can develop and implement a person-centered treatment plan for a client,” Patti explains. 

“I love what I do for a living, and obtaining my bachelor’s degree gave me the skills and knowledge I needed to obtain my job at the Penn Foundation. Now, with my master’s degree I am looking forward to even greater opportunities and success in my career,” she added.

If you are thinking about starting or completing a degree, the University Center partnership between MCCC and CHC may be the right place for you to begin your journey.

Chestnut Hill College’s Accelerated Adult Degree Program is carefully designed to support adult students who are looking to earn a degree, offering affordability, flexibility and accessibility so that students have a better chance of reaching their educational goals.

For additional information, or to speak with an Advisor/Admissions Counselor about the Accelerated Adult Degree program and the partnership with MCCC please email here.