Degree for Life: Woman returns to college with husband and son

Non-traditional student Monique Barr and her family gather at their apartment in Provo on Saturday, September 8, 2018. (Savanna Richardson / UVU Marketing)

Education is a family affair in the Barr household. That’s not extremely rare, but in their case, the children have finished or are working on their higher education, and the parents are coming back to finish their degrees.

Monique Barr, the mom of three sons, is attending Utah Valley University. She recently shared the story of the family’s journey in the realm of higher education.

“We had been living in Pacific Grove, California,” she said. “We were both working there for the Pacific Grove School District. My husband was a custodian and didn’t really like his job. I was a teacher’s aide. All of our boys were gone and I was ready to do something more. But everything we looked at said we needed a bachelor’s degree.”

Their two older boys had graduated from Brigham Young University and the youngest attended there, and is considering transferring to UVU. Since all three boys were in Utah, mom and dad decided to join them and pursue their degrees in Utah County.

Mike Barr previously did a few semesters at BYU and was accepted for re-admission.

“I applied twice to BYU and wasn’t accepted,” Monique Barr recalled. “I was initially disappointed to come to UVU, but have since fallen in love with it. It is a great campus with great resources. People here have the attitude: ‘How can we help you to do what you are trying to do?’ ”

If possible, that attitude is even greater at the Women’s Success Center, she said. “The message there is ‘What can we do to help you graduate and be where you want to be?’” she said.

One place she likes to be is working at the Women’s Success Center. She recently took a full-time job at the center, after working part time there as an office assistant.

“As a student, it has pointed me to resources that have made a huge difference,” she said. “Tara (Ivie, the director) talked to me about things I could do with my financial aid, and helped me qualify for better grants and scholarships.”

Monique Barr suggested that a good path for other women is to be curious and inquisitive.

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions,” Monique Barr said. “There are tons of resources on campus and tons of people who are willing to connect you with those resources. You have to be willing to walk up to someone and ask. If they can’t help you, they will usually point you to someone who can.”

Monique Barr anticipates graduating in December with a degree in communication. Mike Barr is pursuing a degree in English with an emphasis on creative writing. He has written a few children’s books and is working on a chapter book.

Their own children had positive reactions when they heard their parents were going to continue their higher education — and it’s not just because they can visit their parents for Sunday dinner and have a home-cooked meal, Monique Barr said.

The eldest son has a degree in political science and is hoping to continue to earn an MBA degree. The middle son majored in computer science and writes code for a company in Orem. The youngest is looking at UVU’s hospitality management program.

Their futures are looking bright, and they are enthusiastic about what the coming years will bring, Monique Barr said.

“I feel that we are on this trajectory that is taking off,” she said. “When I first had the thought to come back to school, I thought it was crazy. I think sometimes you won’t have it all figured out, but you just have to take that first step. If that first step is coming into the Women’s Success Center, see what we can do to light at least a few steps along the path for you.

“Education is not just to get a job. I think the more educated people are the ones who make the best choices. When people make good choices, that makes society better.”

Women like Monique Barr are encouraged to take advantage of the Women’s Success Center. The center offers women the support and resources they need to complete their degree and gain the confidence, opportunity and knowledge that come with a diploma. UVU is dedicated to providing higher education opportunities to all who seek them, especially to women. Those who wish information may visit https://uvu.edu/wsc.