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Once Limited by Life's Curves and Challenges, Comm Tech Major Finds Now is the Time to Pursue Her Dreams

By Sarah Elliott, dot comm Staff

FORT WORTH, Texas - Once most people graduate from college or high school, they never want to look back. What they want is right in front of them and they're looking to start their lives.

Jennifer McAlister is different.

Jennifer McAlister UTA Communication Technology Major

McAlister, 40, recently returned to school after an extended break. She hadn't quit school because she didn't like it or because she had poor grades. It's just that life intervened.

McAlister attended Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, Nev., 15 years ago and the University of Nevada-Reno 22 years ago. She was pursuing an associate's degree in graphic communication, but could not finish her last year of school because of family responsibilities. Her husband was in the military and was transferred to Virginia.

She attended UNR from 1990 to 1993 and TMCC from 1995-1997. All the while she had a family and husband to look after, making for logistical and time management concerns.

McAlister now attends the University of Texas at Arlington, where she is majoring in communication technology. After graduation, McAlister plans to pursue a master's degree in web design, a life-long dream.

In addition to her studies, McAlister also runs her own graphics and web design business on the side.

McAlister said she returned to school for several reasons. For one thing, she considers learning to be a lifetime activity. In addition, she wanted to become more familiar with up-and-coming technology.

She said she loves being back at school. She wasn't able to get her four-year degree earlier because of her husband's responsibilities and the fact that they were always moving so much and she had small children to tame.

She said she did, however, like living across the U.S.

"I enjoyed moving all over the U.S. with the Marine Corps," she said. But now that her kids are more mature, "the timing is perfect" for her to accomplish what she has been longing for.

Of course, she's had to make some adjustments. Getting back into the habit of doing homework has proven difficult, especially because it's not her favorite way to spend her free time.

She also said she wishes there were more people like her in school.

"I am the type of person who has a goal and can't rest until it is complete," McAlister said, making an oblique reference to the more relaxed attitude toward schoolwork held by some of her younger peers.

McAlister said being a non-traditional student actually has its advantages

"I appreciate my classes more now, not only because I am paying for them, but because I choose to be here," she said. "Age shouldn't be a factor in coming back to school."

That being said, McAlister said she has no quarrels with her younger student colleagues. "Everyone is great!" she said.

She does have a pet peeve, however. She finds herself annoyed when other students surf the web or spend time on Facebook during class. That's a phenomenon she didn't have to deal with when she was in school earlier.

McAlister is originally from the Reno and Tahoe areas of Nevada, but has lived in numerous places, including Florida, California, North Carolina and Arizona, all because of her husband being in the military.

McAlister and her husband finally decided that Texas was the place to sink their roots, and she said she adores what Texas has to offer compared to other places she has lived.

Now McAlister is pursuing her Texas-sized dreams, which include completing her studies at UT-Arlington.