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Rauch is studying psychology, sociology, philosophy and religion. She isn’t planning a new career, she just wants to learn.

Learning for learning’s sake

59-year-old student adds life skills while seeking IPFW degree

Photos by Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
Susan Rauch, 59, is the controller at Vorderman Volkswagen. She is also pursuing a general studies degree at IPFW.

Susan Rauch’s day starts with coffee. She puts out a small coffee bar at Vorderman Volkswagen, where she is the controller. She walks the showroom, greeting employees or any early-bird customers before sitting down to her job, which deals with Vorderman’s finances.

Rauch, who is nearly 60, has more than 30 years in accounting and has worked at Vorderman for 14 years. The avid reader learned on the job; she doesn’t have a college degree.

Yet.

Rauch is a student at IPFW. She is not getting a business degree or an accounting degree. Nothing in statistics. No, Rauch is working on a degree in general studies, a program of study that allows her to have four minors, all dealing with her various areas of interest: psychology, sociology, religious studies and philosophy. She’s also earning a certificate in gerontology.

Last year, Forbes reported that 60 percent of college degrees go unused – an architecture major can’t find employment as an architect, say, or a dance major hasn’t become a dance instructor or opened his own studio.

But Rauch’s case is a little different: She has a job, and she’s going back to school – in a field that is not overtly related to her position.

And that’s not exactly common.

“I don’t meet hardly anybody anymore who gets a degree just for the heck of it,” says Sandy McMurtrie, an academic adviser in IPFW’s general studies program.

Those who do might be more likely to choose degrees in the fine or liberal arts.

“You have aspiring writers who maybe have a book in their head rolling around. They want to maybe know how to do that a little bit better,” says McMurtrie, Rauch’s adviser. “Maybe (those) who have had a hobby-level (interest) in history maybe want to hear more from professional people like tenured professors or study a certain period of history more in depth.”

For Rauch, from Fort Wayne, the degree relates back to her loves: her love of people, her passion for religion, her interest in reading. With her gerontology certificate, she hopes to eventually volunteer part time in a nursing home or assisted-living facility. The psychology and sociology minors help with her relationships with co-workers and customers.

“They’re all life skills,” she says. “They’re all people skills. … I use my skills here, but I don’t have any intent of getting a career in anything else.”

When Rauch went back to school three years ago, it was in part because of a trip to Barnes & Noble. She likes nonfiction on “people issue” topics, but she couldn’t find anything to strike her fancy on that trip.

A few years earlier, her husband earned his degree in information systems from Indiana Wesleyan University, and he brought it up: Why didn’t Rauch go back to school, too?

She had an epiphany, she says: “I’m going to school.”

She is currently a non-degreed accountant, but that course of study didn’t interest her; she’s been an accountant for years. She could have majored in business, but that didn’t sound appealing, either.

She started in psychology because she loves people. Her co-workers tell her they know when she’s trying to read people, using what she’s learned to help at Vorderman.

Then, a student suggested she transfer to general studies, which appealed to Rauch because she could add more areas of learning – her four minors are the maximum general studies allows. Plus, she knew she would never get a doctorate in psychology, which she would have to do if she wanted to become a psychologist.

Rauch is in no hurry to graduate. She attends classes part time, either on campus or online, and figures she will have her bachelor’s degree in three more years, at which point, she plans to keep going, perhaps earning a master’s degree is psychology or sociology.

“I don’t want to stagnate. I don’t ever want to retire,” she says. “It’s not in my vocabulary.”

jyouhana@jg.net

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