A Long Hiatus: Tim Nebergall Returns to School
In August of 2014 I retired as a web developer and moved back to Oregon. After being gone for 7 years, with sporadic and brief visits to see my kids, it was wonderful to once again see the lush greenery, taste the Coast air, and relax. With my wife and three children, I settled down on 5 acres in the Coast range and thought “This is the life!”. Then, after a short period of time I began getting restless. I knew that there was still much I could do in my life, and felt that my life experience and left me with little else but computer work to do, and the last thing I wanted to do was MORE web development! After a short spell of “Do I really want to do this?” I knew what I had to do: Go back to school.
Now the big question: “What do I want to do?!?” As I wrestled with this Fall 2015 came and went, I considered it again in Winter of 2016, but I had too much to do. Spring 2016 came around and once I was looking at school in my rearview mirror and I told myself: “Not again!”, and reached out to PCC to begin the process. Bear in mind at this point I still had no idea of what I wanted to actually get done. There was a vague notion in the back of my head that I wanted to start a nonprofit and do some good stuff in my community. I had an outline of a plan to do that, but it required a healthy nonprofit in order to make it happen. My initial idea was just to finish my A.A. (started in Spring of 1985) and to get a certificate in nonprofit development.
Walking on campus for the first time was a little intimidating. It had been over 30 years since I had been on a school campus to do something other than visit. As I took that walk from the parking lot down to Building 7 I must have asked myself at least 50 times: “Are you crazy? Are you really going to do this?” I walked up to the information desk, a nice lady about my age was sitting there, after the initial pleasantries were taken care of I stated my intent, with the caveat that I had no idea how to make it happen. Her response both assured me and terrified me. “The first step is testing!”
She explained that I could take one test a day, or two on one day and two the next, or any combination thereof. I inquired as to whether it was possible to take care of it all on one day. Again her response both assured me, and terrified me. “Let’s see how things go.”
The testing went rather quickly. After testing I went and saw an academic advisor. Although I had kept up on many skills that I had learned in school, math wasn’t one of those. I tested out of reading and writing requirements with the understanding that some degrees may require certain classes. In addition to this I carried those classes that I took back in the early 80’s. Some of these grades were not very good. I had gotten a “D” in WR121. We determined a course of action for the first term that would lead to an A.A. in Fall 2017 and I felt real good about it. Even though I had tested into Math 65 the advisor suggested Math 58. “You only need the one math class, why stress yourself?” So there were my first two classes, WR121 and Math58. The third class was tied to the certificate, Introduction to Grant Writing (BA209) and then I had my schedule. It was just a matter of submitting my FAFSA and getting it all paid for.
I’m not sure what I expected, but I can definitely say I did not expect the experience I got. The WR121 instructor, Jarrod Dunham, was a bit younger than me, but still had some seasoning on him. He was a bit potty-mouthed, and higher energy than I remembered from previous writing instructors. He gave meaningful reading assignments that really stretched my ability to grasp them fully. On many occasions I had to resort to further texts to help me understand what was being said. Soon I felt very comfortable in his class, even though you could add the ages of just about any two people in room and they would still be younger than me. I was delighted and surprised at how smart some of these kids were. There were the usual ones there that lived by scraping by, but there were many that were engaged and happy to be at school. I was delightfully surprised at how easy writing came back to me, it was enjoyable and interesting.
Math 58, on the other hand, proved to be a very challenging class. The very first day the instructor, Sonya Redmond, told us that if we had signed up to this class thinking it was an easy “A” to think again, and she was right. This class challenged me in ways I thought I could no longer be challenged, by making me dot every single “i” and cross every single “t”. The last math course I took was in the days before the internet, and while math itself had not changed, the entire world had, including me. There were many things about this class that made me grateful that I took it, but Sonya was right, this was definitely not an easy “A”.
I thought, before the term ever started, that Introduction to Grant Writing was going to be my most challenging course, and it did not disappoint me. From the very beginning this class was difficult for me. I struggled with many of the concepts, mostly because I had not taken any business courses before, so many of the ideas had to be flushed out in my mind before I could even begin to do the work on the actual class projects. I had two instructors for this course, Arthur Davis and Rick Horton. They struck me as a kind of “Odd Couple”. Arthur was clean shaven, bald, and was a snappy dresser. Rick has long hair, an incredible beard and dressed in jeans and plaid shirts. Between the two of them they have more than 50 years of grant writing experience. They were, simply put, amazing. I learned so much in this class and am so incredibly glad I took it.
Looking back over this first term after a long hiatus I have challenged all my friends who have been away from school for a while to go back, learn more, do more, accomplish more than you ever thought you could. Since that first day of this last term I have come to realize that I want to pursue a Master’s degree. So, Fall 2017, I will dual enroll at PCC and PSU and continue on at PSU for Winter 2018. My eventual goal is a M.P.A. in Nonprofit Management. Along the way I will get a B.A. in Community Development. My eventual goal is to manage the nonprofit agency I founded in 2015 in such a way as to benefit my community the most. Even though this means putting a lot of things on hold until I finish school Spring of 2021, I know that the education I receive will help me realize my goals. While I realize that my school has, in many ways, just started, in many other ways this is just a continuation of that great school that we call “Life”.