Scholarship Recipient Brenda Gilchrest, B.S. ’15, on Her Educational Journey

Scholarship Recipient Brenda Gilchrest, B.S. ’15, on Her Educational Journey


It is an honor for me to personally extend my gratitude and many thanks for the philanthropic donations that you contribute to University of Baltimore students. Your generous gifts enable and help to foster the dreams of so many, like myself, on that academic journey — many of whom would not be able to attend college due to the financial hardship that taking on college debt would present. However, your kind contributions make that mountain a little more bearable to climb. Allow me to share a bit of my story: My parents did not continue education beyond elementary and middle school, due to the place and time, helping the family to make ends meet. However, my mother stressed to my siblings and I the importance of getting a high school diploma. In fact, I can remember, in grade school, she would help me with my homework until I got to about the fifth grade, when the assignments became a little bit more challenging for her. My siblings and I all received diplomas, and my mother got a chance to witness each of us walk across the stage. However, I needed to go further for myself. Also, having two daughters of my own helped me to understand that a college education is the key to opportunities and to real growth that will provide a more stable environment and future. So I pursued my degree several times. However, I was unable to complete it due to some financial and personal misfortune that required more of my attention at the time. So, instead I became an employee at Johns Hopkins Hospital where I worked as an international plant manager for six years, until a day in 2011 when I was told my position was being eliminated due to departmental and structural reorganization. That was a day I will never forget. The rumblings and the rumors started in July of that year, after a new CEO was hired in the organization. At that time, I feared the unknown — because my oldest daughter was graduating from Towson University and my youngest daughter was entering college the same year. As you can imagine, the financial burden would have been overwhelming if I lost my job. I was told that because I didn’t have a bachelor’s degree, I would not qualify for the new management position, that the job that I had been doing for six years required a degree. Wow. My division wasn’t the only one affected by the restructuring. There were other managers, assistant directors, and directors who also faced the same consequences. At times, we all closed our doors and sometimes cried together about the impending date of termination. I felt like such a failure. Because here I was, a person with 20 years of experience, and pushed my daughters to go to college, and yet i had no degree. I’m thankful for it all now. Because if it had not been for that experience, at that time in my career, I would not have been able to stop and think about the next steps — which led to a conversation with my daughters about returning to college. My oldest daughter told me to go for it, and said: “Remember what you told us — it’s not where you start, it’s where you end up.” I decided to take my own advice, and pursue the next chapter of my life — beginning my undergraduate education at UB. I chose UB for my education because the mission and strategic vision of the University aligned with the goals and aspiration that I envisioned for myself. The online and evening classes would allow me to continue full-time employment, while working towards a degree at my own pace. I started that endeavor in August 2012 and accomplished the goal in December 2015 when I finished my undergraduate studies, by obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Health Systems Management with a minor in business management. During my final year at UB, I was awarded the Colvin Scholarship, that assisted in offsetting some of the financial burden and costs. It also gave me peace of mind so I could focus on my studies. I’m not totally where I want to be in my professional career. But I’m more comfortable and confident that I will be one day soon. I thank the universe for all of those challenges, obstacles and hurdles. Because without them, I would not have been afforded the opportunity to speak in front of you today.

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