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When planning for graduation, most students expect to cross the stage with the friends  they have made throughout their college career. But for two EKU graduates, their celebrations were shared with their mothers – now fellow graduates.

Bailee Rowlette graduated from EKU with a bachelor’s degree in environmental health science in December of 2018. Knowing she wanted to continue her studies, she immediately began her master’s in occupational safety. During that time, her mother, Dashana Rowlette, had returned to school after more than 20 years away from the classroom.

Dashana originally attended EKU in 1988, pursuing a bachelor’s in nursing. During her senior year, she left school to join the military. After serving almost nine years in the Army Reserve, getting married and starting a family, her education took a backseat to raising her two children. It was only after getting a job with University Housing that going back to school entered Dashana’s mind. 

“It’s about doing it for yourself,” said Dashana. “It’s about finishing what you started. That was huge for me – to be able to finish my degree.”

Although they did not take classes together, the mother and daughter still offered support to one another throughout their educational journeys. Dashana and Bailee laughed as they shared a memory of Dashana writing her first paper for college. Frustrated and discouraged, Dashana was ready to give up on her dream of finishing her bachelor’s degree. With encouragement from her family and her EKU colleagues, she finally took advantage of the on-campus tutoring services available to students. “They don’t care if you’re 52,” Dashana said. “They will sit down and show you how to do your work.”

Dashana credits much of her success at EKU to Lisa Cox, director of the Student Outreach and Transition Office. “Lisa was right down the hall from me,” said Dashana. “She directed my path the whole way.”

Bailee agreed that the people at Eastern are what make the experience so exceptional, remembering professors and students who helped her through her studies and mentioning the small class sizes. “There was no one that I didn’t know,” said Bailee. “You graduate together and have friends at the end of the four years.”

Now with their degrees behind them, Dashana continues to work for EKU as the membership coordinator for WEKU, while Bailee dreams of working for a speedway or NASCAR someday.

Logan SmithLogan Smith is another EKU graduate who returned to earn his master’s degree. Logan first came to EKU in 2014 and earned a bachelor’s degree in business management. During his undergraduate career, Logan met his wife, Courtney Smith. In 2018, they graduated together from the same program; the two EKU graduates were married last year.

Immediately after graduation, Logan returned to EKU to earn his MBA. During Logan’s sophomore year, his mom, Candy Smith, decided to return to college to complete her bachelor’s degree in child and family studies, with a focus on early childhood development.

This was not Candy’s first time at Eastern, as sheCandi Smith initially began her college career after graduating from Anderson County High School in 1985. Not long after, Candy dropped out of school, got married and had three sons. Like Dashana, Candy also had to put her educational aspirations on hold to raise her children. She ran an in-home daycare for 20 years and was able to stay home with her sons. “Life happens,” said Candy about her choice to leave school. “I wouldn’t have given it up for anything, but I am glad that I did go back and finish. I have always loved EKU.”

Logan and Candy certainly faced adversity in earning their degrees. In addition to both working full-time jobs for the duration of their college careers, they also experienced a great loss. Candy’s husband and Logan’s father passed away during Logan’s sophomore year. The following year, Candy’s father and Logan’s grandfather passed away. They were devastated, but they supported one another and persevered to complete their degrees. “We’ve leaned on each other a lot,” said Logan.

Despite the tough circumstances they have faced, Logan and Candy share a positive outlook when thinking about their future. Candy currently works at Kidzway Learning Center in Frankfort, Ky. “By bettering myself, I better Kidzway,” said Candy. “I think I owe it to the kids I serve to learn as much as I can about what they need.”

Logan is employed at Alltech, where he has worked while earning his MBA. He enjoys his current position, but also mentioned the possibility of owning his own business someday. When asked about his future, Logan said, “I like to keep my plans dynamic, because God has a way of changing those pretty quick.”

Like Dashana and Bailee, Logan and Candy both agreed that the professors, staff and students they encountered at EKU made their experience a positive one. They both exude school spirit and are proud to be graduates of EKU.

“EKU represents a type of person that is different from every other university in Kentucky,” said Logan. “A lot of kids are working their way through school, they’re first-generation college students. When I graduated two years ago, neither my mom nor dad had a college degree. Now this time graduating, I am not first generation anymore. There’s so many students like that at Eastern. EKU is the school of opportunity.”