Nontraditional Student Becomes Valedictorian One Class at a Time

Posted by on Wed, May 21, 2014

Cheryl Sebjenics


The journey to a college degree can take many paths. For lifelong learner Cheryl Sebjenics it took 14 years. The 58-year-old Ohio woman just graduated from Baldwin Wallace University after taking one—and only one—class per semester (fall, spring, and summer) since 2000. On Sunday, May 18, 2014, 14 years after her first class at Baldwin Wallace, Sebjenics received her bachelor’s degree in business administration and human resources.

[Get your business degree, too, online or on campus.]

“Anyone who knows me has known that, in addition to my full-time job, I have always been enrolled in a class,” she said. Her friends often asked, “What class are you taking right now?” she said. “And I’d tell them,” she added, “and offer some thoughts about the topic of the class, my reading assignments, or what I was working on for the class.”

In 2000, Sebjenics’ very first Baldwin Wallace college class was in math. The full-time technical recruiter said she found each course to be “mental aerobics” and a good way to stimulate her brain. Following her math course, Sebjenics enrolled in business, weather, geography, and communications courses and eventually pursued a degree path.

[Going back to school? 5 Tips for Adult Students Returning to College]

There was only one question that stumped her. “Sometimes, people would ask me if I was a sophomore, junior, or senior,” she said, “and I’d have to go look it up, or count my credits and figure it out.”

That all changed a few years ago when she realized she was finally a senior. “Having the credits in place to be a senior somehow felt different,” she said, noting that it became more difficult to choose her last few classes as her degree requirements began to be completed. “I loved the business courses I took, but once I had taken all the courses required for the major, I realized that I could take anything I wanted,” she recalled. “I also realized, having some life experience, that pretty much every course is relevant to me and to my life in some way,” she said.

“I experienced one of the best classes toward the very end of my 14 years as a student at Baldwin Wallace,” she said. “It was a conflict-management course through the communication department.” Sebjenics said most of us may not realize that conflict is all around us, all the time. “I wish I had taken that class earlier because learning about how to remain in a conflict, understand the conflict, and work toward a resolution offers so many valuable lessons for life,” she said.

[For more back-to-school stories of success, read From Floor Nurse to Manager: Debra’s Story.]

For her dedication and steadfast commitment to earning an education and a perfect 4.0 GPA by playing the long game, Sebjenics was honored as the university’s recipient of its annual Milton T. Baldwin prize (BW’s version of valedictorian) during Sunday’s commencement ceremony at the university, located in the Cleveland suburb of Berea, Ohio. According to university officials, she is the first nontraditional student ever to receive the honor.

What’s next? Sebjenics said she’s thinking about taking a graduate course, sometime in the next year or two.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *