A scholarship opportunity combined with consistent focus ensures that doors keep opening for CCE student. 

Jane Elizabeth Jones, CCE student and winner of the McNair ScholarshipJane Elizabeth Jones has two strong passions: health care and children. She knew it even when she was young. As a teenager, Jones knew she wanted to work in the medical field. She went on to pursue and combine her passions when she became a psychiatric and mental health nurse specializing in working with children. Her commitment to family and to her work with children have helped to shape who she is as a person, and what she intends to do with her life. Now, with her own family to consider, Jones is using the College of Continuing Education to take the next step.

Even with a strong mental focus, Jones' path to her current success has been a struggle. She moved to the Twin Cities from Memphis 11 years ago, and after dealing with some tough personal losses, she felt like the bottom had fallen out. With three kids to care for, Jones made a commitment that can strain anyone with a family-first focus: she was going back to school.

She started at Minneapolis Community and Technical College before coming to the University of Minnesota in 2007, entering as a junior. While pursuing her own personal goals, Jones continued to put the growth, well-being, and healthy development of her kids as priority number one. Taking between nine and twelve credits per semester, Jones was able to chip away at her degree requirements while still being the mom she wanted to be; one consistently available for her kids.

"I've gone at a pace that allows me to really care for my three children, to really be there for them while still in school," said Jones.

Jones identified two areas of study that, unsurprisingly given her passions, stuck out as natural fits for her interest: child psychology and family social science. Working with College of Continuing Education staff, she set up a course of study that would allow her to obtain her degree.

"It was very easy. I chose my two focus areas, and then laid out my own plan, said Jones. However she also noted that pursuing an individualized degree does take thorough thought and planning. "There is no blueprint. I had to lay out all the courses that I wanted to take within my focus areas, and then work with the heads of those departments to get the okay with my plan. Still, it was seamless and smooth."

While still dealing with the busy life of a mother to three, Jones' efforts in the classroom and goals for the future allowed her to earn a McNair Scholarship. The scholarship is designed to give students who aim for a Ph.D., and that come from a non-traditional background or from unique circumstances, assistance with achieving their goals in higher education. For Jones, the scholarship provided some welcome resources and affirmation that her skills and knowledge were more than adequate for someone pursuing such a high-level degree.

"It was miracle after miracle that kept allowing me to stay in school," Jones said.

The McNair Scholarship provides students with a mentor at the University who gives recipients guidance in understanding what it takes to earn admittance to a Ph.D. program and going through the application process.

Jones hopes to attend graduate school at the University of Minnesota. She intends to study child psychology and is particularly interested in the topics of family policy, children's emotional health, and education reform. Staying in Minnesota is important especially because it will help keep the family together with kids ages 9, 11, and 18, the oldest currently attending Marquette University. Jones says she is extremely interested in a research and teaching role in the future.

Confident about her educational outlook, Jones is happy with the route she has taken, and the opportunities that are available because of it.

"I really made a lifestyle change to chase this relentlessly and the doors have continued to open." Jones said.

Tough breaks in life happen to everyone, but not everyone is able to bounce back from those pitfalls with a renewed understanding of their personal passions. Jones did just that, and so she will be graduating from the College of Continuing Education in the spring of 2011 with outstanding credentials in place for her grad school ambitions.

"Any passion, any dream I've ever had, I'm going to pursue it until every door is closed," said Jones.