FOREST CITY, Iowa - It's been an up and down year for college and university students, from some classes being held in-person or strictly online or through Zoom, to crowd limitations at sporting events and quarantining if one came in contact with the coronavirus.
Now, graduation season is upon us. For this year's graduating class at Waldorf University, a mother and daughter are set to walk the stage on Saturday and receive their degrees.
DeAnn Derscheid-Hanna is no stranger to Waldorf; she received her AA degree here in 1991, back when the university was a community college. After transferring to Wartburg College to finish her 4-year degree, she came back to Waldorf as an employee in 2003, and is currently the assistant director of financial aid.
A longtime education advocate, she felt it was the perfect time to advance her own education.
"When Waldorf began offering the master's program, it felt like it was a natural transition to me to pick up that extra degree and run with it."
Her daughter Madelynn Krutsinger came to Waldorf, in part because she grew up in the area, and also received a tuition discount, thanks to her mom being an employee.
"I really like the human mind and human behavior, and I wanted to focus it more on helping others. I focused it more on criminal justice. My main focus was the mental health and the cognitive and behavioral aspects of offenders."
During their studies, Madelynn has been a great resource for her mom as she navigated the technological challenges of modern education.
"Going back was intimidating. Having someone where I can pick up the phone and say, 'I'm trying to learn APA formatting,' or the library is digital and I'm used to the old card catalog. She was a great help teaching me how to maneuver the digital world of education," DeAnn says.
And yes, they studied together.
"Occasionally, I'd go to her house and sit at the table. We actually did that a couple days ago for finals. It was nice being able to hang out, but do the same thing at the same time kind of thing," Madelynn says.
"Even though I was in an online format, and she was in a classroom format, the interaction we had...in some respects, it was like being on a college campus. It kept me young, it made me feel connected to that age group and the things they were involved in," DeAnn adds.
Now as DeAnn receives her Master's in Organizational Leadership (with a concentration in Human Resources), and Madelynn receives her Bachelor's in Criminal Justice and Psychology, they hope to encourage others that may have been thought about returning to school to get back in it.
"I would probably go back because I know how important it is to get that education and how beneficial it is," Madelynn says.
"She really was my biggest cheerleader. She was like, 'absolutely Mom, you can do this, you should go for it. There's no reason not to do it.' She was one of the couple of people that really pushed me to take the step. When you've been out of the classroom for 30 years, you begin to doubt yourself, asking, 'can I really do this? It's gotten that much harder.' She was a huge advocate for it."
"There were times where I was like, 'I can't do this anymore, I don't want to do this anymore.' She almost didn't give me a choice," Madelynn adds jokingly.
DeAnn believes going through college together with her daughter helped strengthen their relationship even more.
"As a parent, it's really fun to see your children reach these different milestones. It is pretty special though, that we get to celebrate it together. It's a unique experience we'll get to share."
Madelynn plans to attend graduate school at the University of Missouri in the fall.