Editor’s note: This story pairs with “College education more accessible for older students”
The Universe spoke with two older BYU students — both of whom are mothers and live with dermatologic conditions — who returned to school later in life to pursue higher education.
Armenian single mom seeks MBA
Carine Henderson was born in Moscow and moved to Armenia when she was 6 years old. She came to BYU to pursue an undergraduate degree in linguistics and was one of the early interpreters for the late Jon Huntsman, former U.S. ambassador to Russia.
After Henderson graduated from BYU, she spent a number of years in a business development role for a pharmaceutical and medical device company. She said she always knew she wanted to return to school to get an MBA.
“At some point you kind of just reach the ceiling,” Henderson said. “I decided this was the right time to return and get my master’s in business administration.”
She chose to return to BYU because the business school is ranked nationally and has high-quality professors and courses for a lower cost.
As a single mother of three kids — ages 6, 7 and 12 — Henderson said the experience of returning to school is not free from challenges, but it has been an overall great experience.
“At night we will all sit down at the table, and some of us are working on fractions, some of us are working on pie charts and some of us are working on net present value,” Henderson said. “It’s a fun experience; I really enjoy teaching my kids about business.”
She said the experience has brought her family closer together and allowed her to teach her kids the importance of education through example. As far as balancing her family and her education, Henderson said she tries to automate many things in her life aside from spending quality time with her children.
“For example, I do Walmart grocery delivery; I do Costco home delivery. I’m subscribing to food delivery services,” she said. “I try to automate everything that requires time so that most of my time is dedicated to work, kids and school.”
Henderson said she feels education has become more accessible for students of all ages as the world has become more digital and global. She said the world is removing the idea that one can’t obtain an education after a certain age.
“I think with time, we’re becoming more of a generation that focuses on outcome and what you can do and not necessarily on these preconceived notions of ‘well, if you’re beyond this age, you can’t really do anything,'” Henderson said.
According to Henderson, the disadvantages she faces have become advantages. She has received various scholarships based on her ethnicity, her skin condition (vitiligo) and the fact she is a single mother.
“Perhaps in this opportunity it is disadvantageous that I am a single mom, but there was perhaps a certain aspect of it that was advantageous that allowed me to apply for unique scholarships where moms are given a chance to go back to school and to receive assistance,” Henderson said.
Psoriasis doesn’t prevent mother of six from finishing degree
Amy Feldman is studying family and consumer sciences at BYU. She started her education at BYU in June 1994 and continued through December 1996. She got married, started working full-time and started having kids, so she never finished her degree.
Feldman has dealt with psoriasis since she was 3 years old, and at times 98 percent of her body has been covered with psoriasis. When Feldman first came to BYU in 1994, she decided she would not let her skin condition inhibit her.
“It changed my outlook on life in general, and it changed me to see me as a better person, to see me as a child of God and to see me as a good friend,” Feldman said. “To see yourself as someone who is worthwhile is really hard to do sometimes.”
Now Feldman is happily married and has six children. She started working as a substitute teacher 22 years after initially attending BYU.
“I fell in love with teaching in general. I started thinking, ‘Why can’t I finish my degree so I can have my own classroom of kids?'” Feldman said.
She decided she wanted to study family and consumer sciences, changed her major and ultimately wanted to teach at the high school level. One of Feldman’s major concerns after being accepted to BYU was financing her education. She began searching for scholarships designed for returning mothers.
Feldman came across a scholarship from a dermatologist and applied. She was awarded a $10,000 scholarship designed specifically for moms who are returning to school and also have a skin condition.
“I had been praying about how I felt really sure that I needed to go back to school, but I didn’t know how logistically it would work,” Feldman said. “When they called me and offered me the scholarship I cried, and I was so grateful.”
Feldman took as many classes as she could at the BYU Salt Lake Center and online when she first returned to BYU. Now that she is further in the major, all of her classes are offered at the Provo campus. She rides FrontRunner every day and uses the free Wi-Fi to take quizzes and do her homework.
She said she meets many good, young people in her classes. Her fellow classmates in her major even call her “Mom Amy.”
“I feel like one of my talents is blessing these young kids with a different outlook, with a different perspective, with a different kind of love than they know how to express,” Feldman said. “These kids are still trying to figure out who they are and who they want to be and what kind of person they want to be as they get older and become adults.”
Feldman will be entering her senior year this fall and currently has five kids at home and one on a mission. She also serves in her stake Primary presidency.
“How do I balance? I don’t know how I do it all, but I can say I do it with the help of the Lord because I cannot do it on my own,” Feldman said.
She said her husband has been a tremendous help, and her kids have stepped up to help around the house. There are sacrifices made because she is gone, but according to Feldman, there are many blessings that have come as a result.
There are times when Feldman pulls all-nighters, does poorly on a test or doesn’t get home until 11 p.m., but she is not afraid to ask for help.
“This is something I feel like I need to do and everything has come together for a reason, and you just learn to deal,” Feldman said. “You learn that there are disappointments, but there’s no reason to harp on all the negatives because that doesn’t help at all. You just have to move forward with the positives and do the very best you can, and that’s all I can do.”