Tiffany Hall ‘21 knows all too well how life can get in the way of the best-laid plans. The wife of a U.S. Navy servicemember, Hall has spent the last decade since she graduated from high school with one goal in mind: finally earning her bachelor’s degree.
Fits and starts
Hall is no stranger to the classroom. After high school, she briefly attended nursing school before switching gears to a new passion: teaching. She had earned a few associate’s degrees from Tidewater Community College and was just digging into her undergraduate teaching program at Old Dominion University when she learned that the U.S. Navy was moving Hall and her husband to Japan.
After moving to Japan, the pandemic hit, so she needed to find a military-friendly school to complete her education. That is when she found UMGC and pivoted her education to focus on business, setting her sights on a bachelor's degree.
“I decided on business classes because that covers everything,” she notes.
While studying full time, she also ran several local groups and volunteer organizations, taught English in town to natives, fostered animals, and volunteered as an ombudsman while working at the USO.
A rough patch
At the same time, Hall and her husband were expecting a baby. Due to complications, she had to be medically evacuated to Hawaii for care, leaving her support system behind for a long six months.
“I wrote an eight-page paper on the plane from Japan to Hawaii,” she recalls, of her efforts to not fall behind with her studies.
Her luck didn’t improve from there. Hall suffered a string of additional health-related setbacks that put her studies on hold, including a bout of COVID, gestational diabetes, an emergency c-section, emergency appendix surgery and, finally, gall bladder surgery.
“I couldn’t breast feed or hold my child for two months,” she says.
Back on track
Once she was back in Japan and had recovered, she resumed classes while tending to her newborn, but it wasn’t easy.
“During this time, I had a baby, I was healing, and I was taking full-time classes,” she recalls.
She and her family were relocated to Virginia for an assignment with the Navy, and she decided she needed to take a break from school to tend to her family. Her husband had been called out three times since the family moved to Virginia, leaving Hall to handle the unpacking, care for their baby and manage their increasingly tight budget.
A helping hand
When she was ready to return to classes, financial constraints made it difficult to cover the costs of school. “I was always the one helping others, but now I’m the one in need,” she admits.
After nine years of college classes, her bachelor’s degree is within reach, thanks in part to the Walter R. Somerville Jr. Undergraduate Business Students Endowed Scholarship Fund.
“This scholarship will help me finish my degree and help me secure a job providing income for my family,” she says.
Hall’s goal is to graduate in the spring of 2024 with her bachelor’s degree in business plus a minor. She plans to work from home helping small businesses in her circle of family and friends. Later, when she has children in school, she plans to work with nonprofit organizations.
“If I didn’t get a scholarship I couldn’t go to school,” she says. “It’s not in the budget even though I’ve been working towards it for nine years.”
She’s grateful that soon she will finally be able to walk the stage in her cap and gown and receive her bachelor’s degree after all these years.
“Thank you for this opportunity. I am blessed by the support of UMGC for having a military rate, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, and Walter Somerville Jr. Scholarship,” she says. “I am able to finish my degree, as a new stay-at-home mom, debt free!”
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About the Walter R. Somerville Jr. Undergraduate School Business Students Scholarship
Walter R. Somerville, Jr. ’70 earned his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at UMGC in 1970. A U.S. Air Force veteran, he recognized that a college education would make him more competitive for jobs in the federal government. In 1983, he became assistant commandant for civil rights in the U.S. Coast Guard and held a status of senior rear admiral, the sixth-highest ranking official. When he retired after 54 years of public service, he worked with UMGC to create an endowed scholarship for undergraduate students.
When asked why he gives, he said, “I do it out of my heart, to try to help people by giving them an opportunity to make a positive difference in their lives.”