Phyllis Strader, 2015 graduate from Stevenson University Online was honored with the Learner of the Year Award by the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL). This award is presented annually by CAEL to individuals who have overcome numerous obstacles to successfully continue their education. CAEL is a non-profit that supports adult students receiving the education and training they need to thrive in their current or future careers.

In recognition of this outstanding achievement, Phyllis was presented her award at the CAEL 2015 International Conference by Stevenson’s Patricia Ellis, Special Assistant to the Dean, who acknowledged Phyllis’ intelligence and conviction by stating, “Stevenson University is very proud to claim her as one of our graduates.”

Patricia was joined on stage by John Course, Associate General Counsel for Exelon – SSC Legal Litigation, who spoke about Phyllis’ role as a team player in their firm as well as her determination to constantly improve her surroundings and never settle for the “status quo.”

The essay that earned Phyllis the Learner of the Year Award describes the personal challenges she experienced during her 10 year journey toward graduation. Read how Phyllis was able to triumph and eventually complete her bachelor’s degree in Paralegal Studies in the following essay titled, “Adult Learning Experiences at Stevenson University.”

I know that I am not alone while describing my experiences of being in the so-called “sandwich generation.” Raising children, working full-time, and caring for elderly parents is difficult enough, but to also attend classes in an attempt to finish one’s degree would be considered crazy, if not impossible by most. Fortunately, I was able to obtain my degree in Paralegal Studies even though I was faced with extraordinary challenges and adversities along the way. These challenges consisted of caring for my father and father-in-law who were both on hospice care in my home, caring for my mother-in-law who suffered from various medical issues, raising my two children, working full-time as a Paralegal, and attending classes at Stevenson University Online.

Fortunately, my experiences in elder care and elder law gave me the opportunity to obtain prior learning credits through Stevenson University’s Credit for Prior Learning program. This program proved to be extremely helpful in obtaining my degree. My overall experience as it relates to elder law was not only demonstrated in my personal life while taking care of my elderly parents, but also in my professional life as a Paralegal by working on various Pro Bono Estate Planning Clinics. Through these experiences, I have been able to obtain and apply the many practical skills needed to help my family and seniors with medical and social issues through advanced directives, management of assets, estate tax issues, long-term care, and various other aspects of elder care. Completing my portfolio for prior learning credits not only aided my efforts toward graduation, but it also allowed me to reminisce about my personal and professional experiences that I can share with my own children.

Even though my overall experiences of caring for and then losing my parents was both physically and emotionally exhausting, I never gave up on my dream of completing my degree. Fortunately, this dream became a reality in May 2015 when I received not only my degree in Paralegal Studies, but I also obtained the Dean’s Award for Exceptional Scholarship at Stevenson University.

My current position is Sr. Paralegal at Exelon Corporation. This coming January 2016, I will be with the company for 15 years. This degree enhanced my skills as a Paralegal in several ways. The Employment Law class improved my skills in preparing position statements and responses to EEOC charges and overall employment matters that I work on. Various other law classes reinforced my skills in litigation, bankruptcy, e-discovery, and the numerous other topics found in the field of law.

The Paralegal Studies program was definitely a benefit in enhancing my skills overall and the professors were amazing. This degree certainly opens up other opportunities of advancement going forward and I am excited about my future.

Alumni Spotlight