Newly divorced and lacking in self-worth, the Susan Jensen of six years ago stood at the crossroads. Today, she’s a confident master’s degree candidate in one of the most prestigious graduate school programs her field offers.
What happened in between? Well, Carthage happened, for one thing.
Susan enrolled in Carthage College’s Adult Undergraduate Studies program, figuring it would follow the same fill-in-the-blank testing format as high school. The reality was far more challenging — and more rewarding.
“It’s more important that you’ve gotten the broader sense,” she said. “Everything isn’t given to you, neat and tidy. You have to figure it out for yourself.”
‘A liberal arts education is crucial’
Her first appreciation for Carthage’s liberal arts foundation came during Western Heritage II, part of a required course sequence. Freshmen read, discuss, and write about key texts from the Greek and Roman worlds through the Renaissance and into our modern era.
Professor Ben DeSmidt urged those in the class to challenge their own assumptions, explaining how easily people can persuade themselves that a leaky argument is water-tight. That lesson, later reinforced by Professor David Duncan’s insistence that students “own” their religious beliefs, stuck with Susan.
“Now, more than ever, a liberal arts education is crucial,” she said. “We need to be able to see what a logical argument is and discern what is reasonable and what isn’t.”
Awakened passions for unlikely majors
Her studies awakened passions for an unlikely pair of majors: religion and criminal justice. Thanks to the College’s broad-based approach, Susan beefed up skills like public speaking and even scientific lab research. Most importantly, supportive feedback from Professor Susan Ramsey and other faculty rekindled her self-confidence.
“I just needed someone to believe in me,” she said.
While her son Daniel ’18 remains on campus, pushing toward a degree in political science, Susan graduated in May 2016 and moved on to the University of Chicago Divinity School. There, she recently entered a graduate program in religious studies.
Eventually, she hopes to earn a doctorate and teach at the college level or work in counterterrorism. For now, Susan is thrilled to be able to maintain substantive conversations with international classmates from all over the faith spectrum.
“This is really huge for me, and my background at Carthage has given me a good springboard,” she said. “I’ve come to understand that learning is really a lifelong process, and it’s good to be introduced to new ideas.”
Earn her doctorate and teach at the college level or work in counterterrorism.