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by Jean Marie Strauss

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Energy radiated from Annie Segan as she opened her door, exclaiming, "You will never believe what I just got in the mail . . . my Master's diploma!" The vitality and happiness were not only products of well-deserved pride, I was soon to find out, but part of Segan's vibrant nature. Segan happily raised three children in Manhattan. She loved being a stay-at-home mom. While her kids were in private, public and even home school, she kept up a steady stream of work-at-home projects. She worked as a photographic archivist, an artist, writer, and even had a line of maternity clothes. Still, while helping her kids with their schoolwork, Segan always felt, "I really wanted to do this for myself." So with her 30-year marriage ending and her children all grown and accomplished, Segan spent a year-and-a-half miserable and blue. Then she went back to school. Segan chose SUNY's Empire State College, because they had a program for re-entry students. Almost immediately, she noticed the support the college had in place seemed to be inadequate for women like herself. Friends she had made began dropping out. So she did some research and found that "middle-aged women go back to school because they are in transition and these transitions make re-entries difficult." Demanding changes, such as divorce, single parenting, caring for elderly parents and widowhood, when linked with the fact that this generation was the last to be raised before women's liberation, left women of a certain age with special needs when going back to start or finish a degree. When Segan found her classmates reluctant to even raise their hands to speak in class, she became determined to help them find their voice. With her college credits earned before marrying at age 20, and the credits she received for life experience, Segan was able to race through college to earn her degree in only 11 months. Her Bachelor of Arts was in photography, but she already knew she would pursue her Master's and that it would focus on issues relating to women returning to college in mid-life. Segan takes the dictum "knowledge is power" a step further for women who may be intimidated by the entire back-to-school process. "What's important is not knowing the answer; it's knowing how to find the answer," she declares. Her research took her to the city's libraries, but she found the Internet, especially the SUNY portal to libraries, to be most helpful. She also realized how essential it is for older women to know how to use a computer and have access to one. She recommends taking advantage of free courses offered by libraries and networking with friends to acquire these skills as well as a computer. Thus equipped, a woman can visit Segan's website: www.2ndtimearound.info. When Segan first tried to procure a DotCom address, she was informed it was already taken. Dot.info was available, but she was disappointed, and hesitated. Her eldest son, however, convinced her that dot.info was perfect — because that is what the site is all about. And it is chock full of information. Segan has designed (with the help of web designer Stella Wu) an easy-to-follow site that can answer virtually any question a woman considering going for a degree might have. Being a Baby Boomer, starting a support group, financial aid, choosing a program, buying textbooks, entrance exams and more are all easily accessed at 2nd Time Around. Even questions one might not have thought of — or even wanted to think of — are covered, such as menopause and depression. Her research is thorough and clear, as well as encouraging. She provides links to a plethora of helpful sites. In addition to the website, Segan has developed an hour-long workshop tailored to incoming women students who are on their "second time around". SUNY has already expressed interest in their alumna’s project. Having seen too many women drop out after making the courageous step to re-enter school, Segan hopes to provide the support women need. "It's all about support. That's what women have done throughout history: we commune with each other; it's a natural thing to do. Take advantage of it!" For more information, visit www.2ndtimearound.info.

 


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