More and more women are
returning to college to complete
educations interrupted by marriage and motherhood. Their
reasons range from a desire for
personal fulfillment to serious
career preparation; their commitment sometimes borders on obsession or hovers on a shrug;
their motivation, however, seems
universal — "I just had to get
out of the house and do something!" is the usual answer to
"What are you doing here?"
"It's something stimulating
and it doesn't take up all my
time," said Joan Doerner, who is
studying for a master's degree in
English at the University of
Joan, an over-40 mother of five
children, received her undergraduate degree from Rice in
1951 and decided to return to
college two years ago after
attending a Continuing Education seminar at UH. She is representative of many "older than
average" students. She juggles
housework with homework and
manages to maintain her composure and sense of humor.
In addition to her studies, Joan
is writing a novel. She finds time
for all these projects by dividing
up the family responsibilities
among the seven members of the
household. All her children and
her husband, Karl, take turns at
preparing dinner and cleaning up
afterward one night a week. Her
biggest problem has been picking
up her youngest child at school
every afternoon. Karl takes him
to school in the morning, but with
no school bus and poor public
transportation, the child has to
walk across busy Main Street
and the Southwest Freeway to
"I'm just not comfortable
about that," Joan said, "so I
usually drop everything and run
to pick him up. Sometimes I
feel so pulled apart and my life
is so fragmented . . . it's really
Jeri Milner sympathizes with
Joan. She is also in the over-40
category, mother of four, and a
student at the University of
"It's the same old story," Jeri
said. "I worked to put my hus-
Mother is a freshwoman
By Elise Rubenstein
"No, it's not easy," she said.
Worth it? "Sometimes I wonder.
I'm mainly worried about getting
a job when I get my degree. Not
only is there sex discrimination,
but age discrimination will probably affect me, too."
Joan has had several unpleasant experiences with what
she says is "subtle discrimination" at UH.
"The professors just don't take
female students seriously," she
said. "One professor criticized a
paper I wrote and called it a
grocery list. That isn't very constructive criticism and I know he
wouldn't use the same analogy to
a male student."
Although discrimination hasn't
been overt, Joan still feels that
all her male professors are
band through college, then I had
three babies in three and a half
years. After the youngest started
school, I thought what now? I had
always believed the Madison
Avenue propaganda that said if I
used Glo-Coat and kept my potty
clean, I would live happily ever
after. I wasn't happy, though,
and I didn't understand why."
Jeri's husband encouraged her
to go to college. She timidly
enrolled at San Jacinto Junior
College and spent a year there.
"I was so unsure of myself that
I only registered to audit courses
rather than actively participate in
them," Jeri said.
Another pregnancy interrupted
her college career and it was six
years before she returned to
complete her education.
"I feel I've earned the right/'
Unlike Joan Doerner, Jeri does
not feel any discrimination or
prejudice at UH because of her
sex or age.
DR. JOY WILSON, right, director of the University of St. Thomas
ENCORE program, councils returning student.
"I've always felt a part of the
campus community," she said.
"The younger students don't
seem to resent me at all and I
have a good rapport with most of
Althought Jeri has no definite
plans, she is thinking about doing
public relations work in the
library field when she graduates.
She worked in a library for four
years and enjoyed it: "I've
always been an avid reader," she
She's a writer now, too. She
has just completed a collection of
short stories and is currently
working on a novel.
"I'm not going to push it, I'm
just going to take it slowly and
enjoy college to the fullest," Jeri
said. "Although I'm not that
much smarter now, I am more
knowledgeable and I feel more at
ease with people. It's been a
great experience despite all the
Problems seem to revolve
around a lack of self-confidence
and self-esteem. "Because of
these feelings of inferiority, the
continued on page 15
A Downtown Activetics Studio for Women
825 Niels Esperson Building
Next Session Begins February 14
not entering college
directly from high school —
bring special skills, strengths,
and knowledge to their studied.
They also have unique questions and
problems. Realizing this, the University
of St. Thomas Encore program gives
individualized academic and emotional support.
UST offers courses in over 25 areas of study from
8 a.m. to 10 p.m. For further information contact
Dr. Joy Wilson, Coordinator, Encore, 522-7911, ext. 252.
/f&l\ Universit/of St. Thomas
3812 Montrose Blvd.
Houston, Texas 77006
Houston Breakthrough • February 1977 • Page 9