B.S. in General Studies Graduate Finds Her “Why” in the Classroom

B.S. in General Studies Graduate Finds Her “Why” in the Classroom

May 22, 2024

By Julie Wrinn


General Studies is a new major in the College of Arts & Sciences launched in 2022 that offers nontraditional students a shorter path to earning their degree. Simone Rivera, class of 2024, is among the program’s first 10 graduates, and her journey illustrates how a bachelor’s degree can lead to a rewarding career that would not have been obtainable without it.

Simone’s story spans more than a decade, beginning with a love of Spanish language and culture instilled by a high school teacher. “Every week we would visit a local Latino store called La Tropicana and practice our Spanish with everyone in the store,” she said.

As a freshman at UofL, Simone was a Spanish major, and Dr. Regina Roebuck remembers her well: “Simone was determined and unafraid of taking on a challenge, as evidenced by her semester-long study abroad in the Dominican Republic.” Eventually, however, Simone struggled academically and needed to take time away to self-reflect and work on obstacles that were in her way, leaving the university in 2011.

For the next decade, Simone worked in a variety of positions, from customer service call centers to the healthcare industry. These experiences strengthened important skills such as time management, teamwork, and accountability, but she was not satisfied with her long-term prospects. “It was a realization for me that I needed to return to school to pursue a career that I was passionate about and one that would help me grow financially,” she said.

That insight did not immediately lead back to UoL. Simone initially chose to attend Jefferson Community and Technical College, earning an Associate’s Degree in 2021. At that point, having learned how to juggle work and school successfully, she was prepared to return to UofL.

“It was a lot easier than what I thought it would be,” she said. “My academic advisor Danielle Dolan helped me throughout after my petition was approved. She was great and very helpful. She answered any questions that I had about returning, my major, minor, etc.”

Simone also benefitted from the flexibility of the General Studies major, which allowed her to use all previous UofL credits towards that degree. Working full-time at the UofL School of Dentistry, she devoted evenings and weekends to class work.

Those sacrifices paid off, as Simone is now qualified to embark on a career that aligns with her passions: becoming an elementary school teacher, ideally of first graders. She will be able to gain teacher certification through the Jefferson County Public Schools Louisville Teacher Residency program, a partnership with UofL.

In addition to a BS in General Studies, Simone earned two minors, in Spanish and Psychology. “My Spanish minor has given me the ability to be bilingual and to assist others as needed at work and in my community,” Simone said. “My psychology minor will become useful within the classroom, with many different personalities and social behaviors. It will make me aware of behaviors that are abnormal as well.”

Dr. Roebuck, who is also Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education in the College of Arts & Sciences, said, “I am immensely proud of Simone’s accomplishments and thankful that the General Studies program allowed her to complete her degree in a way that was meaningful for her both personally and professionally.” 

Simone’s advice for others who are considering a return to school is: “Just do it. Take a leap of faith,” she said. “Start with one or two courses and see how that works for you and your schedule. You must believe in yourself and know that you are able to be successful. Find your motivation, your ‘why,’ and you will make it to graduation.”

One of society’s most urgent needs, especially after the pandemic, is highly qualified public school teachers, and we can all be thankful that Simone persevered and found her ‘why’ in the classroom. “I’m ready to teach the next generations of students,” she said.