After more than 20 years on her educational journey, Shelly Hathaway, of Ithaca, earned an associate degree from Montcalm Community College in an unconventional way, and it’s an accomplishment that inspired her to continue her studies at the bachelor’s degree level.


Hathaway was a student in MCC’s nursing program from 1990 to 1992, where she earned her Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) certification. In 1997, she became a student at Central Michigan University (CMU) in pursuit of a Bachelor of Science in Public Health.


“That plan changed when I was blessed with my granddaughter coming to live with me at 10 months old,” she said.


Hathaway took a leave from her nursing career to open a retail garden center. During the off season, she wanted to work in the nonprofit sector and found a job at the American Red Cross. In 2008, she took classes at Lansing Community College to complete a management certification for advancement within the American Red Cross.


“When circumstances beyond my control changed my path once again, I was faced with having to start over in my career,” Hathaway said. “I began to feel very frustrated because as an LPN there were not many positions that would pay enough for me to support myself and my granddaughter, so I knew I had to go back to school. I felt almost hopeless because I had taken so many classes in so many areas and still did not have a degree.”


Hathaway returned to CMU in 2013 and spoke to a counselor who said she might be eligible to earn an associate degree from MCC. This degree would be a reverse transfer degree.


“Reverse transfer is a process that allows former students, who have continued their education at other accredited institutions, to transfer classes back to MCC,” said MCC Dean of Student & Enrollment Services Debra Alexander. “Those students just need to arrange for an official transcript to be sent to us from their next institution with an indication that it is a reverse transfer. Those students are then audited for degree completion, and if requirements for a degree are met with the transferred classes, a degree will be awarded.”


Hathaway contacted MCC to be considered for the reverse transfer degree.


“It sparked something inside of me,” Hathaway said. “MCC completed the audit process, determined that I was eligible and sent me my Associate of General Studies in May 2013. When I received it in the mail and was able to present this to my employer to place in my employment record, it really made me feel proud. I now had something to show for all of the years I had spent taking classes and it really inspired me to continue on to complete my bachelor’s degree.”


Hathaway’s associate degree made a positive impact on her annual evaluation at work. With renewed confidence, she earned her Bachelor of Science in Community Development/ Health Sciences from CMU in May 2014.


“Education is something that cannot be taken away from you, and I have a real sense of accomplishment when I look up on my desk to see my associate degree and my bachelor’s degree sitting there side by side,” she said. “I think my granddaughter has respect for the fact that I worked full time and completed my degree while also caring for her and maintaining our home.”


Since May 2015, Hathaway has served as a Field Implementation Specialist at Altarum Institute in Ann Arbor.


“I now have the career that I dreamed up working in public health on a program to help improve the oral health of children across the State of Michigan,” she said. “I recruit physicians to participate in the program, which is federally funded, and then provide them with training that includes the application of fluoride varnish to children’s teeth during their well child visits.”


Hathaway was recently accepted to Michigan State University’s Graduate Certification Course in Public Health.


“Health improvement and wellness are my passions, and I hope to someday teach classes at the community college level and/or work as a public health educator,” Hathaway said.