Mother, daughter pursue degrees together

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Read in Spanish: Madre e hija estudian juntas en BYU

The two students in the back corner of the Success in College Reading class sit together every Monday and Wednesday. They make the same hand gestures, have the same laugh and scrunch their faces the same way when they’re thinking.

They are almost indistinguishable from each other, yet there is a marked age difference between them. They talk as though they are the best of friends, but they’re not roommates and or sisters.

Cynthia and Jen Richards are mother and daughter.

For the past three semesters, Cynthia and Jen have taken at least one class together at BYU. 

“It started when I decided I wanted to go back and finish my degree,” said Cynthia, a Pleasant Grove mother of four. “I got married my junior year at BYU and left school to start our family.”

Now she’s pursuing a bachelor’s degree in music. She said she is grateful to her family for supporting her decision. Psychology major and daughter Jen said she feels proud to have her mother in school with her.

“I love having my mom be my study buddy,” she said.

During the winter 2019 semester, Cynthia and Jen both registered for Physical Science 100, knowing that they would need to keep each other accountable in attending class and completing the assigned work.

“We survived that class because of each other,” Cynthia said. “We studied together all the time outside of class, and we owe a lot of our success to our working together.”

“Plus,” added Jen, “We didn’t have to try and make new friends in class.”

Cynthia and Jen enjoyed studying together so much that they registered for the same interior design class the following semester.

“Our minds work in such similar ways that we couldn’t not register for another class together,” Cynthia said.

This semester, Cynthia and Jen are in Success in College Reading, a student development class that helps students better comprehend college textbooks. The two agreed that attending class together helps them keep up on the required reading logs.

While some college students might feel embarrassed to have a parent as a classmate, Jen loves having her mother and classmate supporting her through school.

“I think people want or expect me to be embarrassed about my mom being in school with me, but my mom is one of my best friends,” Jen said. “I don’t live at home, so it gives us a good excuse to see each other all the time.”

The two also agree that having a family member as a classmate isn’t without its challenges.

“Sometimes Jen will crash my on-campus lunch dates with my husband,” Cynthia said.

“I do,” Jen said as the two promptly burst into laughter.

While many students may not share the same parent-child relationship as Cynthia and Jen do, the mother and daughter acknowledged that their sharing classes isn’t the only thing that contributes to their relationship.

“I think for us, it took understanding and respect,” Cynthia said. “My daughter is all grown up and I’m happy to be both her mom and her friend.”

“My mom is great, and I’m so glad she’s in my life, but I’m glad she’s allowed me to have the space to be my own person as well,” Jen said.

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