Nontraditional Student Achieves Master's Qualification at BYU—Patti Moses ('10)

Three acceptance letters, one with a generous scholarship, lay in a row awaiting a major decision. Patti Moses’ dream became a reality as she found out she would be attending a university to receive her master’s degree.

In 1974 Moses was accepted to BYU as an undergraduate student, but she did not have the means to attend at that time. Over many years she put her husband through school, raised four children, and trained and worked as a medical transcriptionist. As their last child approached high school, her husband encouraged Patti to return to school.

For five years Moses attended the University of Utah, where she completed her undergraduate degree in speech and hearing sciences. She even gave the convocation speech at her undergraduate graduation. She expressed her appreciation for the mentoring that she received and explained what an achievement it was to earn her degree as a first-generation college graduate.

In her speech Moses tells the story of how she overcame her fear of failure and persevered until she reached success:

I could never compete with bright, young high school graduates fresh out of AP classes. Having failed algebra in high school, I doubted my ability to succeed in math at a university level. Facing my worst fear, I enrolled in Math 950, the lowest possible noncredit math class offered. The very first day, my professor addressed our class with these words: “Apparently none of you were stellar math students in high school or you wouldn’t be in this class.” My heart sank. I was angry at his arrogance. It had taken 28 years and every ounce of courage I had to consider pursuing higher education as a nontraditional student, a mother and grandmother.

This wise professor had my undivided attention. He then proceeded to teach us strategies that would ensure our success, not only in math but also in every class we would take at this university. “Sit in the front. Ask questions. Seek out other students who have the same academic aspirations you do and form a study group. Get to know a professor each semester well enough that you could ask for a letter of recommendation.” Up to this point, I was convinced to take his advice. Then he concluded, “Every one of you can get an A in math.” Getting an A in math was beyond my comprehension, but what I lacked in math skills I would make up for in determination.

As a freshman, I enrolled in Common Medicines, a general education class taught by Dr. Annette Fleckenstein of the College of Pharmacy. I sat in the front. I asked many questions. I sought her advice about fetal alcohol syndrome for a research paper writing assignment. As we talked one day, she turned to me and said, “Patti, you should apply for scholarships, and I want to write your letter of recommendation.” I was dumbfounded. I was one of a hundred students in her class. What did she see in me that compelled her to act as a mentor? I had never considered myself a candidate for scholarships, yet she took the time to advise me of the possibilities. Her personal interest in my potential empowered me with hope. If she believed so strongly in my abilities, perhaps I could succeed in this university, perhaps even in math. The day that I received my final grade in statistics was a day I will never forget. At the top of my final were these words, “You received the highest grade in the class. Congratulations!” I knew then that if I could succeed in statistics, I could do anything! If only I could go back 35 years to Mr. Nolte, my high school algebra teacher, and tell him what I know now—that I am not a failure.

She then had the opportunity to decide among three institutions to earn her master’s degree.

“I chose BYU for my graduate degree for many reasons,” Moses said, “some of which were the small cohort, the opportunity to work closely with the well respected faculty members in our field, the spiritual aspect of education espoused by BYU, and the supportive feeling I had when being interviewed by the panel for the program in communication disorders.”

Moses was one of nine students admitted into the BYU Speech-Language Pathology program.

At 54 years of age, Patti Moses did what only eight percent of the American population has done: she completed her master’s degree. Moses graduated with a master’s in communication disorders from BYU.

Moses credits the McKay School and the education she received there for her career success. “I feel that my two years spent in communication disorders were well spent in terms of the rigor of the program, the relationships I established with the faculty . . . and the overall preparation for my future as a speech pathologist,” she said.

The degree from the McKay School graduate program has enabled Moses to work in her hometown as a speech-language pathologist for the Davis School District.

She has worked with preschool, elementary, and junior high students, as well as students with behavioral challenges and severe disabilities. “My work is a continual challenge in terms of the individual needs I must serve in a caseload that has been as high as almost 70 students at times,” Moses explained.

Moses desires to give back by serving because of all of the opportunities she has received. She remarked, “I am always interested in encouraging students to pursue higher education whenever I have the chance and in providing the kind of mentoring that I lacked in my youth. I feel blessed to have had such a supportive husband and wonderful faculty who provided that encouragement and mentoring for me.”

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