The student loan statements appeared monthly in the mail, expenses for an incomplete education. Then one day Marco Guzman (SCS07) realized that if he was going to pay for a degree, he'd be better off actually having it.
Seven years ago Guzman came to the United States from Mexico City and enrolled in Benedictine College (now Benedictine University) in Lisle, Ill., to study business and finance.
Guzman left unfulfilled after a little more than a year.
"Even though when I dropped out of college I was unhappy, I know I made the right decision," says Guzman. "The experience would not have been as life altering as Northwestern has been."
In June Guzman earned his undergraduate degree in sociology from the School of Continuing Studies. He graduated alongside his wife, Laura Guzman (G07), who earned a master of arts in literature through SCS. And now he's off to begin his doctoral studies in historical, comparative and political sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles, in the fall. He received UCLA's Eugene V. Cota-Robles Fellowship, a merit-based, five-year funding package offered to first-year doctoral students.
Marco certainly earned his Northwestern degree. When he first started taking classes at Northwestern, he was commuting from his home in Evanston to work in the far southwest Chicago suburb of Alsip. He left that position, picked up a few odd jobs around Evanston to pay the bills and eventually landed at the University in its accounts payable office. (Marco took advantage of the University's employee tuition benefit. Employees receive an 85 percent discount on undergraduate tuition or 75 percent on graduate tuition up to $8,000 per year through SCS. He also received a Continuing Student Scholarship from SCS.)
When he first talked with a Northwestern adviser in 2004, he was not projected to graduate until 2010. "That scared me," he says. So Marco enrolled full time, taking four classes per quarter and putting in 16-hour days between work, school and studies.
"It's been fun," he says seriously.
"A lot of places give you expectations," he adds, "a certain job, a certain graduate school. Northwestern gives you expectations, which are even higher, but it also opens doors for you. It gives you opportunities."
Laura, a biologist who worked as a research technologist in a Feinberg School of Medicine dermatology laboratory, says her master's degree in the humanities opens up a whole new world. Laura, from Bucaramanga, Colombia, did not speak much English when she came to the United States five years ago. She saw her program in world and comparative literature as a way to expand her horizons, improve her written and oral English and allow her to move toward a career in writing, editing and possibly teaching. (Laura was hired by a UCLA health care research group in mid-July.)
After Marco completed a German language class in the summer, he and Laura headed to California, thankful for the opportunities at SCS.
"There is a misconception that we are SCS students, not Northwestern students," Marco says. "I think SCS molds the best of Northwestern's resources for working adults. You get to take classes with amazing professors. You get access to incredible resources. And you still get student discounts at Chipotle.
"Getting into UCLA would not have happened without this amazing structure of SCS behind me." — S.H.