Lindell proud to finally get degree after a decade of stops and starts
About a decade ago Lindell Foster was working towards a university degree when her husband Kris was made redundant.
She worked two jobs to help pay for the IT programme he enrolled in overseas; due to a lack of time and money, her own studies fell off.
Today’s Bermuda College commencement ceremony marks the end of a very long journey. Were it not a virtual event, Ms Foster would have been at the Stonington campus in cap and gown to receive the bachelor’s degree in marketing and management she earned through the school’s partnership with Mount Saint Vincent University.
“I’m definitely excited that I’m done and that I can move forward,” she said. “I think I’ve been about ten or 12 years trying to get it down. I started getting my associate’s once I started working in the corporate [world]. Before that it was just get a job as you can get a job but once you get in corporate they’re looking for a piece of paper.”
Ms Foster was in high school when her mother took her and her siblings to live in Israel.
Once old enough she returned to Bermuda and found a job.
“I never finished high school,” said Ms Foster, whose hope is that her story will encourage others to achieve their goals. “I came back so I could work and send back money, because it was a little difficult over there.”
To get her foot in the door she took secretarial and computer courses and, once employed, used her salary to fly to Israel to see her family.
“I literally would save every penny and go there and come back with no money in the bank and then go back to work so I could go back,” she said.
As her siblings got older her trips became less frequent and Ms Foster decided it was time to head back to school. She enrolled at the Bermuda College and in 2011 earned an associate’s degree and started working towards her bachelor’s.
Co-workers at the accounting firm she then worked for helped her out. The 47-year-old also got a huge boost from the study group she started with other mature students.
“We actually formed a friendship that has lasted through today,” Ms Foster said.
“And then as I was doing my classes my husband lost his job. He decided to go back to school and so I was supporting him being in school while I was here working and in school.”
To her full-time job she added work as a night auditor, initially from 8pm until 4am and then from 11pm until 8am.
“I trained my body to sleep whenever I had free time. I could sleep absolutely anywhere. I literally could go into a bathroom stall, fall asleep for 10 minutes and then get back up and be refreshed for the day,” she said.
“I was working, knocking off, getting showered, going to the next job.”
Overwhelmed, she decided she had taken on too much.
“Financially, it just didn’t work and then I needed the time to do my courses, to focus.
“I said, ‘I have enough experience that can carry me through. I don’t have to finish my bachelor’s.’”
About two years ago, in a meeting at work, the fact that she was only nine courses short of a degree became a topic of conversation.
“I was actually quite irritated because I was like, ‘Wait a minute, I’ve got 20 years of experience, come on.’ And they were like, ‘Well, maybe you should finish it.’
“I advocate for the person that can’t afford to do these things, the person who get beyond it by getting work, getting experience and things like that. I was like, ‘What are you telling me? That someone who can’t afford to get their certificate, that they’re less qualified?’ But I understood that I needed to get it.”
She decided to take three courses at a time until she had her degree in hand.
“I was initially always interested in [human resources] so, prior to getting my degree, I had gotten a certificate in personnel practice and I had got my [professional human resources designation],” Ms Foster said.
“In order to progress with that I [chose] management [because] it encompasses so much. And then the marketing intrigued me just because it was a growing area at that time – [for] businesses trying to grow themselves, small businesses looking for advice – and I just wanted to be able to understand what it was.”
Her former “study buddies” encouraged her as did Romeo Ruddock, the programme coordinator of the College’s Division of Professional & Career Education.
Sandi Findlay-Thompson, her adviser at Mount Saint Vincent University, “was the best”.
“She organised my classes, she rejigged everything I needed. She got me all sorted. I couldn’t have done it without her really.”
For her part, she had to learn how to balance her studies with her work at the Corporation of Hamilton.
“You kind of just have to do it in between,” Ms Foster said. “I was doing a course here, a course there and that’s why it was taking so long. And then [came the worry]: ‘I hope I didn’t wait too long to take the next course. Do I have to start over?’ I was fortunate I was able to carry over credits and move forward.”
Months away from completion she discovered there was a required course that she had not taken and wouldn’t be able to graduate in December 2020 as planned without it.
“[Ms] Findlay-Thompson was amazing. She reached out and got the dean to agree to let me do independent study and found me a facilitator that agreed to do the independent study, which means basically I had to listen to his pre-recorded courses and do the assignments in the timelines that he gave me, so I could get done.”
On top of that she was given special permission to take three courses over the summer period so she could achieve her December graduation – typically students are only allowed a maximum of two.
“I had to go to the dean, ask for permission to do a third class, ask for a science to be substituted with a management course. I got all those approvals and was able to push through.”
Then came the news last June that her nephew, Ndavyah Williams, had been critically injured while manning a shelter-in-place checkpoint with the Royal Bermuda Regiment. Ms Foster flew to Boston where he was being treated, to be by his side.
“When he graduated from college a couple years ago he came to Bermuda and stayed with me. He still lives with me actually.
“I was up in Boston with him for the last three courses that I was doing. I was doing my finals while I was up there in Boston. It was a positive that the hospital wouldn’t let me stay too long. So I would go back and study and do some assignments.”
Despite the added stress she was able to complete her studies while there but then missed the application deadline for the December convocation.
“They didn’t get my e-mail,” she said. “They said, ‘There’s nothing you can do. You have to wait until May. My adviser tried – my e-mail was dated before the deadline – it just didn’t go through for some reason.”
Her advice to anyone struggling to complete a university degree is that they do what feels right for them.
“It’s difficult. There is always going to be something that’s going to come up but you don’t have to do it in the time frame that everyone else does it. You don’t have to follow anyone else’s road map just do your own thing, what works for you. But I definitely found the benefit in doing it. No one can say now we would have if you had this…..”