Counselor, Avery Point Campus
When Elizabeth Kading started working as a Bachelor of General Studies (BGS) counselor at the UConn-Avery Point campus in 2011, she was fully aware of the challenges faced by adult students returning to school. Kading earned her associate’s degree at Mohegan Community College (now Three Rivers Community College) in 1986, and tried to complete her bachelor’s degree for many years, but life, in the form of three babies, kept getting in the way.
“Completing my education was extremely important to me, but it started to seem like a very difficult and perhaps even impossible undertaking,” Kading remembered. “I was so discouraged. When my youngest child started kindergarten in 1997, I realized this was my opportunity to finish my degree. I attended a BGS info session at Avery Point, and saw that this was the sensible way to finish my Bachelor’s degree because it would allow me to go at my own pace and attend classes close to home. I seized the opportunity!”
While earning her UConn BGS degree, Kading began working as a tutor at the Avery Point Learning Resources Center in 1998, and continued tutoring after she earned her BGS degree in 2000. She eventually developed a tutoring program for Avery Point’s Center for Academic Programs/Student Support Service (CAP/SSS), and provided supplemental instruction and general life coaching to the students in the program.
Her experience as a BGS student, and her experience in a variety of positions at UConn for more than a decade, made Kading an ideal fit for the role of BGS counselor.
“I know UConn as a student, as a graduate, as a staff member, and as the mother of three UConn students, so I have a fairly comprehensive understanding of the University, especially the Avery Point campus,” she says. “I have a lot of empathy for the students, and the “mom” in me seems to come out when I’m advising students—I give them the same kind of no-nonsense advice I would give one of my own kids.”
Even though Kading’s children were all in school when she enrolled in the BGS program, balancing work, family obligations, and her studies was no easy feat.
“Being a BGS grad gives me extra credibility with my advisees,” she says. “I know firsthand how challenging it is to juggle adult responsibilities with coursework and how those demands compete for your time and attention. Students’ stories about taking care of their families—from babies right on up to aging parents—working, struggling to pay for school, and making the hard choices that allow them to stay in school resonate with me because they are variations on my own experience. When they tell me how hard it is, I can empathize, but I can also encourage them by saying, ‘It was hard for me, too, but I persevered—and I know you can, too.'”
Kading considers UConn’s BGS program critical because it provides a second chance to adult students who didn’t follow the traditional path of high school straight to college. Helping those students get back on track to earn their bachelor’s degree makes her role as a BGS counselor extremely rewarding.
“It’s great that I can now help other adult students to achieve their own educational goals and realize their dreams,” she says. “The most rewarding part of the job is that moment when I’m talking to a prospective student and I become aware that he or she is starting to realize, ‘This is do-able. This program is going to allow me to achieve my dream.’ You can just feel their optimism—it’s very fulfilling to be a part of that.”