Every Knight has their own story to tell. Sometimes, we glimpse a portion of their journey from their decorated mortarboards at commencement.
Last Friday, Cassandra Kirkpatrick, was one of nearly 8,000 graduates who fulfilled their dream of becoming a UCF alum. The story of her journey was too big to be limited to her graduation cap.
UCF’s Bachelor of Integrative General Studies (BGS) was designed for people like Kirkpatrick who are facing a barrier in their major or returning to school after time away. Kirkpatrick is the 1,000th person to receive her degree through the innovative program.
Wayne Bowen, Ph.D., interim associate dean, College of Undergraduate Studies spearheaded the creation of the BGS degree program.
“We created BGS to increase access to earning a college degree that will allow them to attend graduate school, advance their careers, or obtain a lifelong dream,” says Bowen. “We are delighted that Cassandra earned her degree.”
For as long as she could remember, Kirkpatrick dreamed of becoming an aerospace engineer. She excelled in science and mathematics courses as a high school student in Tampa and planned on majoring in mathematics at UCF as a pathway to her dream career.
Kirkpatrick had completed all her required courses and enrolled in a computer science course, the last requirement for the demanding major. She admits she struggled.
“The computer science course was just not something I had the aptitude for,” Kirkpatrick says. “And it was the only thing standing in my way of graduating with a math degree.”
Kirkpatrick attempted the course several times and was not successful. She took a few semesters off to regroup.
When Kirkpatrick discovered the BGS program, she realized a new pathway to graduation offered by the College of Undergraduate Studies through UCF Online, ranked by US News & World Report as one of the top online undergraduate programs in the nation. Through BGS, students who already have 120 credit hours can complete their degree by taking two required courses, allowing them to graduate with a customized degree.
“From some, earning their college degree can be a winding road,” says Theodorea Regina Berry, Ed.D., vice provost for the Division of Student Learning and Academic Success and dean of the College of Undergraduate Studies. “For students that have changed majors or colleges, the Bachelor of Integrative General Studies allows them to combine earned credits from multiple areas into an individualized path to a degree from UCF.”
An unfinished degree means potential earnings lost; but a diploma means more than money: it means career advancement, less chance of under-employment and a higher likelihood of reentering the workforce.
For Cassandra Kirkpatrick, it also means a dream realized.
“There was a time, early in my education, that I worried that my dad wasn’t going to see me graduate,” Kirkpatrick says. “But now, he’s doing a lot better, and I’m just really happy that he is going to see me walk. It’s just such a great feeling, and I’m still kind of at a loss for words.”
You can help students like Kirkpatrick achieve their educational goals by supporting scholarships in the Bachelor of Integrative General Studies program through the College of Undergraduate Studies: https://foundation.ucf.edu/undergradstudies
Pictured: Cassandra Kirkpatrick and family, with Dr. Theodorea Berry, vice provost for student learning and academic success and dean of the college of undergraduate studies and Dr. Wayne Bowen, director of Interdisciplinary Studies