A Degree Down the Shore

For Barbara Brown, earning a Rutgers degree at Atlantic Cape Community College is all about growing, learning, and keeping up with a changing world.

A Long Pause

Nanotechnology. The Civil War. Haiku poetry. Recent alumna Barbara Brown studied them all and more on her way to earning a bachelor of arts degree in liberal studies from Rutgers–Camden. And she did it while commuting just 15 minutes from her home in Atlantic City.

Brown, who earned an associate’s degree from Atlantic Cape in 1974, had been out of school for more than 30 years when she learned Rutgers–Camden was opening an extension site at the community college in Mays Landing, 50 miles from the Camden Campus.

“I started toward my bachelor’s degree in teaching, traveling to Rutgers–Camden in the ’70s, but I was a divorced parent with two daughters,” says Brown. “Between expenses and my daughters who needed me closer to home, I had to stop.”

More to Understand

Barbara BrownAfter a long and flexible career in the casinos of Atlantic City—“the hours allowed me to raise my daughters and make a living”—Brown happily retired from her job as a pit boss at Bally’s. But the desire to attain a bachelor’s degree and “keep my brain working” nagged at her. “There was so much more I wanted to understand. In my lifetime, there have been so many changes, especially in medicine and technology.”

Pretty soon, Brown got serious about finding the right degree program. “I was searching for colleges on the computer one day and a Rutgers–Camden open house at Atlantic Cape showed up,” Brown recalls. It was 2006 and Rutgers had just launched Rutgers at Atlantic Cape Community College to address the dearth of four-year higher education programs in the region. Brown enrolled as one of its first students.

Role Model

Brown says most of her classmates were younger. “They were returning students; most worked. They were amused when they saw me in class. They’d do a double take: ‘Whose grandma is this?’ In most classes, you introduce yourself and share your journey. Everyone was very accepting of mine.”

Through her coursework, Brown learned she “could write, research, compose, and organize a rational paper” on everything from nanotechnology to Southeast Asian geography. Her toughest course? “Algebra. It was terrible. I agonized.” In the process, Brown became a role model for her four grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. “My oldest great-granddaughter was in grade school, having some early algebra. We used to talk about algebra, especially tests. ‘How did you do?’ I’d say. ‘I thought I made it through,’ she’d say. And I’d say, ‘I did, too.’ ”

Having reached her goal of earning a bachelor’s degree through the convenience of Rutgers at Atlantic Cape Community College, Brown, without a doubt, will keep making it through and keep learning. “I’ve always been interested in science and world events. I want to relate to all things going on in the world. School has opened my eyes.”