Regina Whittick’s journey to a bachelor’s degree started long ago. It ended as a celebration with her daughter Charlotte, who also graduated the same day with her own bachelor’s degree. In between, she used Penn Medicine tuition benefits to help get her there, because it’s never too late to finish school.
After completing her associate’s degree in 2019, Whittick — an executive assistant who refers to herself as an “old school learner”— switched to all remote classes during the pandemic, and was able to complete her degree while also juggling being a full-time mother and employee.
“It was incredibly hard at times maintaining work/home/school life balance, especially as the classes got harder. I did have an immense sense of relief once it was over, but it was funny trying to remember when I had my Sundays free and didn’t have to spend them doing school work,” Whittick explained.
Whittick started working at Penn Medicine in 2011 as a medical assistant. She had a brief stint away from Penn Medicine from 2016-2020 before moving into an administrative assistant role. Whittick knew that finishing school would play a vital part in the advancement of her career. “I didn’t have the wherewithal to do a nursing program because my daughter was young at the time, and I was a single mom. I had already taken a few classes in business, so I decided to go back to school and finish that degree,” she said.
The extra motivation of graduating at the same time as her daughter, who was enrolled at Rutgers New Brunswick, provided an extra push for Whittick.
“I had never taken summer classes or more than two a semester while getting my associates at Camden County, but to stay on pace with her I took summer classes and up to three classes during the fall and spring semesters,” she said. “I was also determined to graduate with honors (magna cum laude).”
“It was really special,” said Whittick on the feeling of graduating on the same day as her daughter. Following her graduation in the morning, she and her family headed to New Brunswick to watch her daughter walk across the stage. Whittick’s family ties to the university helped make the day even more special. Her late brother also graduated from Rutgers, as did her father at the age of 50 in 1975.
In fact, Whittick’s family ties are what led her to attending Rutgers: it was the only school she applied to.
“I had decided that if I didn’t get into Rutgers I was finished with school, I wasn’t going to apply to other universities. I think that was my excuse to not continue my education,” she explained. “I was scared to keep going.”
Whittick describes the process of leveraging Penn Medicine’s tuition benefits for employees as “super easy” and hopes her experience will serve as an inspiration to anyone who is considering going back to school but thinks it may be too late.
“It’s never too late,” she said. “I have a friend I’m trying to encourage to take classes and I tell her to start out slow and take one class to get her feet wet. Start with something easy, one of the basics, and go from there.”