Elizabeth in a graduation cap Elizabeth Truelove Fleet grew up in Tuscaloosa, mere miles away from Alabama’s Capstone of Higher Education. Her family instilled in her a high respect for education. “My parents were both schoolteachers, and my grandfather was a coal miner and brick layer, but when he attended Alberta Elementary, he read every single book in the library. He was very intelligent, always reading and pushing himself to learn more and gain new insight. He worked hard to pay for my mom and aunts to go to college at UA.”

After high school, Elizabeth completed a Berean studies program at Kingwood Church in Alabaster. She then earned two associate degrees from Shelton State before beginning a full-time job in human resources for a local business.

Inspired by her family’s legacy and supported by a tuition reimbursement benefit from her employer, Elizabeth started looking into the options available for her to earn a bachelor’s from UA. “My dad and grandfather had passed away, and I wanted to finish my degree to honor both of them and to feel like I had accomplished something on my own,” she said.

She found UA’s New College LifeTrack, a unique pathway to a bachelor’s in Interdisciplinary Studies designed for adults. “With New College LifeTrack, more of my credits were accepted toward my degree. I wasn’t going to have to start over or even halfway through.” New College LifeTrack offers students the opportunity to earn college credit for prior learning and life experience, and Elizabeth found this helpful. “I was able to transfer 15 credit hours of prior learning from my Berean studies, and I had a few courses I had taken online through the LMS at work, and some of those transferred in as well.”

Elizabeth began the program in Fall 2015 while continuing to work full time and found the courses accommodated her schedule. “Most of my courses were set up so that I attended a class duringElizabeth and her husband the weekend two to three times during the semester, and everything else was online. A couple of classes were more of an independent study where I communicated directly with my professor about my assignments.”

Because of New College LifeTrack’s interdisciplinary nature, Elizabeth was able to take mostly electives that were tailored to her interests and satisfied her Science, Technology and Culture depth study. She especially enjoyed her ceramics classes, but her favorite class was about nuns. “It was very eye-opening. Not being from a Catholic background and having some preconceived ideas about what Catholicism is, it was interesting to understand why people become nuns and what nuns actually do. It gave me new perspective and insight,” she said.

For her senior project, Elizabeth wanted to honor her dad, who was interested in genealogy. She wrote a book about her family’s ancestry going back five generations from information she collected from the public library, courthouse and from the Ancestry website. “I learned stuff about our family that even my grandmother did not know! I left a copy of the book at the Tuscaloosa Public Library and at the Northport Heritage Museum.”

In May 2017, Elizabeth graduated from UA with summa cum laude honors. Her family is proud of her accomplishment, and she is grateful for the experience. “I had about a 10-year gap from what you typically see happen in life, so when I went back, it reinvigorated that sense of drive and wanting to do something different with my life – gaining new perspectives and meeting new people,” she said.

Elizabeth with her husband and daughterElizabeth was working for Tuscaloosa Academy as a teaching assistant when their communications director left in 2018, and she began assisting with their social media management. Drawing on this experience and the courage she gained from finishing her degree, she started her own social media marketing company on the side. “Just having the confidence to try new things was important. Having my degree is helping me now to step out on my own,” she said. Her client base and income from this venture have become sustainable enough that she will be able to leave her job to work for herself in 2021.

“It makes me feel proud that I accomplished something – as a grownup. When I was at Shelton, I was still in my 20s, and it was easy. Going back when I did was not easy, but I felt like I had more experience to apply to the projects I was assigned and could write better papers. It challenged me to think outside the box, and I enjoyed it.”


Published: July 21st, 2021