Marguerita Whitby, Harper College Staff and Alum
- May 10, 2017
Being a divorced mother of two isn’t easy. It used to be that hard work alone could get you promoted so I worked my way up to middle management at my job. Turns out hard work was not enough in the new economy and I discovered that I could not advance any further without a college degree.
So at 30 years old I enrolled full time at Harper College in 2006 with the intention to get in and get out. My kids were in middle school and I just wanted that piece of paper that would enable me to go back to work and accept positions of increased responsibility. However, thanks to my wonderful professors, I rediscovered the joy of learning and became more confident in myself and my capacity to learn and to grow.
As a daytime student, I had the opportunity to work with traditional-age college students. It was fun and eye-opening and I was always dragging them to the tutoring center with me when they contemplated dropping a class. At Harper, I took various career skill workshops where I eventually figured out what to major in: Business. On this path, I joined the Honors/Phi Theta Kappa programs where I eventually became Vice President and President, respectively. I gained new skills in leadership and campus event planning, had dinner with Ralph Nader, became a student aide in Liberal Arts, and, thanks to the tutoring center, maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout.
In 2008, I graduated from the Honors Program and received two “Outstanding Student” awards. From there, I was able to transfer to Roosevelt University with a $43,000 scholarship, thanks again, to the Honors Program. I graduated from Roosevelt in 2010 and went on to work for various retail and non-profit organizations, but realized that where I truly belonged was back at Harper College. After applying for various jobs at Harper I happily accepted a position as an Accounting Specialist for the Motorcycle Safety Training Program, despite the cut in pay and responsibility.
While working at Harper, I received a scholarship to Robert Morris University’s Masters in Management program with specialization in Higher Education Administration. As an employee of Harper, I was able to use my professional development funds along with our generous aggregation policy to graduate debt-free in 2016. Thanks to my newly-earned master’s degree and my other professional experience, I returned to the Liberal Arts Department at Harper College in May 2016, this time as the Academic Division Operations Manager. I like to joke that it only took me eight years to move the 30 feet from the student aide desk to my current office. In this position, I hire student aides for Liberal Arts and I make it a priority to help them grow personally, professionally, and remain engaged with Harper College.
Not only has Harper College deeply impacted my life, it has impacted my children’s lives as well. My daughter really wanted to go away for college, but it was not affordable and she was very discouraged that her hard work in high school was not giving her more financial opportunities. However, after receiving the Distinguished Trustee Scholarship, she felt like someone had noticed and rewarded her efforts. The Job Placement Resource Center even found her an internship in her field! Additionally, my son was able to get 18 credit hours for his work at Basic Training in the Illinois National Guard allowing him to graduate on time from Harper College even though he missed his first fall semester due to his basic training. He saved his National Guard/GI Bill benefits, using my employee dependent waiver instead, and will now be able to complete his master’s degree tuition-free. Both of my kids graduated on-time and debt-free with their Associate in Arts degrees in 2015 and, thanks to careful advising, all of their credits transferred and have made it possible for them to complete their bachelor’s degrees on-time as well(hers in Marketing, his in Law Enforcement).
Considering where we all started, I consider us extremely blessed and I am so grateful for everyone that has made Harper College such an excellent institution. I am truly honored to be able to contribute to all that Harper does for our community!