Southeast Encouraging Students to Consider a ‘Fresh Start’

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo.,

Oct. 15, 2004 – Did you once pursue collegiate studies at Southeast Missouri State University, make less than satisfactory grades and decide to withdraw?

That’s what happened to Sherry Ash, 49, of Sedgewickville, Mo., when she enrolled in Southeast courses in 1974.

“I had no focus. I had a child. My grades were not good at all. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I just wasn’t ready. Timing is everything,” she said.

But nearly 30 years later, in fall 2003, Ash set her mind to achieving a college degree.

“I want my grandchildren to know, it’s never too late,” she said.

For students like Ash who have been away from Southeast for at least three years and now have the desire to return, now is the time to check out Southeast Missouri State University’s Academic Fresh Start Policy.

The policy allows students returning to Southeast after a prolonged absence to request academic forgiveness of their prior cumulative grade average and to begin anew with a “fresh start.” With registration for spring 2005 classes set to begin Nov. 1, Southeast is encouraging students to reconsider the college experience. Spring 2005 classes begin Jan. 18

Sandy Hinkle, registrar at Southeast Missouri State, says students who completed less than 30 graded hours, have been away from any post-secondary institution for at least three calendar years and are now returning to Southeast may apply.

Upon returning to Southeast, students must complete a minimum of 12 graded hours of credit with a 2.0 grade point average. Then, an academic “Fresh Start” may be requested, Hinkle said.

If students are granted the request, all previous coursework taken prior to the absence will not be counted on their record.

“It’s an opportunity to start over,” Hinkle said. “These students know they weren’t ready for college when they started the first time. Now they are, and they are ready to be serious.”

Hinkle said the student’s permanent academic record will remain a record of all coursework completed, including transfer credit recorded on their permanent academic record. Courses taken prior to the three-year absence, however, will not be used in computing grade point average, she said.

Ash, who enrolled at Southeast last year under the Academic Fresh Start Policy, said she attended Jackson and Hazelwood high schools. She eventually earned her GED. She was employed in a factory for a number of years, but a debilitating injury a few years ago forced her to reconsider a new vocation in life.

She says Southeast’s Academic Fresh Start Policy is “a blessing in disguise.

“Everybody can make mistakes,” she said. “To be told that you can make mistakes, but come back and we’ll wipe them off, it helps. By all means, why wouldn’t you want to?”

After two semesters at Southeast, Ash now has a 3.57 grade point average and is well on her way to earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

After completing her degree in 2007, she plans on pursuing a master’s degree in counseling, with the ultimate goal of becoming a school counselor.“If I can make a difference in one persons’ life, I have met the goals of my life,” she said.

Ash says she now takes her school work very seriously.

“I’ve applied myself now,” she said. “I work hard to keep grades I can be proud of. You have to want something bad enough. I want it really, really bad.”

Mary Dannenmueller of Kelso, Mo., agrees. She began her studies at Southeast in 1984 after receiving a GED Scholarship. Personal circumstances prevented her from performing well, and, she said, “I watched my dreams vanish.”

After turning 40 and watching her oldest child graduate from Southeast, Dannenmueller said she decided to return to school when the spring 2004 semester began. 

 “My children have been a great source of inspiration for me,” she said. “If it weren’t for them and a very supportive husband, I would not be able to finally be pursuing my dream of a college education.

“The Fresh Start program is all about second chances,” she added. “It has offered me a clean slate with which to start over. I would encourage anyone who thinks that they’ve missed the boat, to give it a try. The University is willing to give you a fresh start. Take it.”

Dannenmueller dropped out of Ste. Genevieve High School in 1978, but completed her GED in 1984 after the birth of her second child. She now works full time in addition to being a full-time student. She takes most of her classes in the evening at the Sikeston Area Higher Education Center and some through online classes on the Web.

After making the Dean’s List her first semester, Dannenmueller, said, “I am proud of this accomplishment because it was the first time I had been in the classroom in over 25 years.”

A social work major, she is now in her second semester.

“It has taken me 20 years to get where I am now,” she said, “and there’s no place I’d rather be. I truly appreciate the Fresh Start program.”