Parenting Presidency: Pam Nelson Goes Back to School

Pam Nelson spends about 20 hours a week studying for her full load of English education classes. She also manages to care for her three children still living at home.

“She manages to keep everything in our home going,” said her son, Mike Nelson, Associated Students of the University of Utah vice president. “I don’t know how she does it, but she prepares dinner every night too.”

Pam Nelson had to think about going back to school full time for a year before she made the decision, but now that she has, she loves her studies.

“It’s really a wonderful experience to be a student again,” she said. “I’m really happy to say it’s possible to go later and do it.”

Nelson has also had the opportunity to be on campus the year her son is “so involved.” She even helped a classmate find cheaper child care through the ASUU Child Care Center her son oversees.

“I was so happy to know about that,” she said. “I think the issues and things [Ben Lowe and Mike] deal with have a positive impact on all types of students.”

However, she readily admits that she’s very biased. “I’ve loved them both for a long time,” she said.

Nelson said that returning to school is the hardest thing she has ever chosen to do, not because of the schoolwork, but because she needs to balance the many aspects of her life.

“The first semester, I really fought against it all the time because, for so many years my life has been so different,” Nelson said. “It has totally structured my life; I was constantly thinking about what I was giving up.”

Nelson no longer has free time to do things with her friends, garden, quilt or watch a movie just for relaxation, but must make an effort to study hard during the afternoons so she has the evenings free to spend with her family.

However, “I feel there are so many advantages,” she said. “I feel like it’s very good for my children that are still in junior high and high school to see me study.”

Mike Nelson agrees. Seeing his mother study so much sometimes motivates him to work harder in his classes.

“It’s always good to have an example in your life,” he said. “I think I’ve learned a lot from her study habits and her discipline.”

Nelson first went back to school so she could take a class with her mother-in-law. She never thought about going back to school before, but the Critical Introduction to Literature class opened her eyes to the potential.

“Through taking that one class, I realized I could still read and analyze,” she said. “I thought about it for a while and decided I could do it.”

Nelson had finished her second year of college when she initially left school because she married and moved to Idaho Falls. At the time, the town didn’t have a university. She later moved to Provo, but still did not take classes because she knew she couldn’t care for her family while going to school. She did the research and registered for school each year for three years, only to change her mind each time.

Nelson is now glad she did not finish her degree in early childhood education, because now she knows what she really wants to do. She is pursuing an English teaching certificate. She is carrying 14 credit hours and will graduate in two years.

“I think I take it too seriously sometimes,” she said. “I love what I learn. I want to learn. I do study really hard. I don’t feel like I study so much because I want to get an A; I want to learn the material and be a better writer.”

Nelson believes that her experience helps her appreciate her education more than younger students do.

“It’s hard without the experience of living to really recognize what you are being offered,” she said. “I think that’s the advantage of an older student?you’re not trying to just get through and get a degree. I almost stand in awe of it.”

Nelson worries that because she cares so much about her studies, she speaks up too much in class, drawing more attention to herself.

“I feel like I talk too much; it is so interesting to me,” she said.

Nelson also studies the Italian language for fun, and speaks it to her children for practice.

“I really want to learn a language; the only way I’m going to learn it is to speak it,” she said. “I kind of like the rise I get out of them, especially Michael.”

Other than the annoyance she causes her children by speaking Italian to them, Nelson’s family has been very supportive of her studies, she said.

“I’m proud of her,” Mike Nelson said. “I think it can be intimidating; I’m proud of her for the dedication she’s put into it. I just wish I had the dedication.”

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