Judy Masterson isn't your typical college student.
While most students enroll in college to get a job or improve their career, Masterson's only motivation lies in the joy of doing it.
"It's to keep my mind active, give me something to do and keep me thinking," she said. "Arkansas State University is a college where senior citizens can go tuition-free, so I thought 'Well, why not?'"
Masterson enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts in Criminology online program because it sparked her imagination and challenged her to think outside the box. She originally chose the strategic communication program, but decided it wasn't her speed.
"I'm not a creative person," she said. "I wanted something I would be interested in that I would enjoy. I thought it would be more fun to do criminology."
This is not Masterson's first time to take college level courses, though. When she studied for a bachelor's degree 30 years ago, she took subjects like algebra, U.S. government, accounting, fine arts, social studies, and a computer class that used punch cards. A-State accepted all of her credits.
"I had 27 hours and every one of them transferred," she said. "I was surprised that they actually had transcripts from that far back."
Masterson has just begun her coursework at A-State, and she is excited to be in school again. She's also is in no rush to finish, however. At this point she's happy just letting the information soak in.
"I did philosophy, which was my first class," she said. "It definitely made me think more about things like God and free will, but it also made me think about what I'm writing and expand on what I'm writing."
Obstacles and Opportunities
Being visually impaired for almost 20 years hasn't stopped Masterson from pursuing her interests, but at a certain point she put aside her plans to finish college.
"Around the time my daughter Melissa graduated from school, I had become legally blind and could no longer drive, and that did away with me going back to school at the time," she said. "Once my youngest grandson graduated from high school, my daughter asked, 'Have you ever thought about going back to school?' And I said, 'No, but that would be a good idea because I would have lots of free time now.'"
While Masterson has had a few challenges in completing her online coursework, she views obstacles as opportunities.
"I've learned how to do things and work around it," she said. "I have to get really close to the monitor in order to see, and I have to use a magnifier and lights to read. It's difficult sometimes, but I've managed."
She wanted to experience an online class before approaching A-State's Disability Services office to learn how accommodations and adaptive technology could make her online coursework easier to navigate.
"My first class that I took was kind of a learning process to see what challenges I would face," she said.
A proactive attitude and open communication with faculty has helped her address issues so far.
"When I had my very first webcam test, I had to get so close to the screen that I would get out of the sight of the camera," she said. "I'd have to sit back up and be re-identified. It was frustrating in the beginning."
Once she spoke with her professor about the situation, she felt reassured.
"I emailed my professor and told him what was happening," she said. "He said, 'Don't worry about it. As long as you were able to finish the test, that is all that matters.' He was very understanding."
Hiccups aside, Masterson is finding her way, and doesn't foresee any issues with completing the BA in Criminology program. She believes that compromised vision needn't stand in the way of earning a degree online.
Judy with grandsons Eli, Kason and Christian
A Family That Studies Together …
Next up for Masterson is a sociology class, which she is eager to start for a special reason: it will be a family affair.
"All of my grandsons are involved with A-State — Eli (23) has graduated, Kason (21) is going now, and my youngest one, Christian (18), will start this month," she said. "I love sharing this experience with two of my grandsons. We're all taking sociology next term, and it wasn't planned! We just all wound up taking sociology at the same time."
While most grandmothers ask what their grandchildren are studying in school, Masterson is excited that she'll know firsthand, because she's learning right alongside them. Though she has many more classes to go, she is already looking forward to sharing the graduation experience with Christian.
"The online program has given me a goal," she said. "It's given me something to work toward, and my ultimate goal is to walk across the stage the same day that my youngest grandson does. That would be the most exciting thing for me to do."Learn more about the A-State online BA in Criminology program.