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first-generation grad AND family inspiration

Jennifer Mauer
May 2015 nursing graduate

Jennifer Mauer has needed more persistence than the typical college student to pursue her goal of earning a nursing degree. That persistence paid off when Jennifer attended spring 2015 commencement ceremonies at UW-Eau Claire's Zorn Arena and became the first in her large family to earn a bachelor's degree. Mauer, of Edgar, Wisconsin, grew up on a farm in a family of 10 children. Her dad worked at a job away from the farm, and her mother ran the farm with the kids. After high school, Jennifer attended a local technical college, working to pay her tuition, because there was no extra money set aside for a college education. After obtaining a surgical technologist degree, she helped her younger sister pay for her additional schooling after high school. She also helped her brothers pay for some of their schooling as best she could, "but I only had so much money," she says.

Jennifer now is married and has three children of her own. She decided to go back to college to advance her career and to be able to better support her family while doing something she loves: nursing. She enrolled in the UW-Eau Claire program at Ministry Saint Joseph's Hospital in Marshfield because she was able to pursue her four-year degree close to home. The program has been "a godsend" because she was able to drive to class and be home in the evening to help with her kids, she says. Jennifer has had a strong family support network as she's worked to earn her bachelor's degree: Her husband worked two jobs to cover the bills while she attended UW-Eau Claire full time, and her 68-year-old mother took care of her children so she was able to attend clinicals when her husband was working. Jennifer worked part time on weekends to cover the cost of gas and groceries. 

Through it all, she remained in good academic standing and graduated with honors. Jennifer sacrificed to achieve her goal, giving up many nights with her kids and missing important events to study. "Some nights my heart was breaking to have to pick between my kids and studying for exams or papers,"she says. Her children have learned an important lesson witnessing their mother earn her degree, however. "My kids have learned from me that hard work pays off," Jennifer says. "They were super excited to see me graduate and wear the gold cords." Jennifer is a first-generation grad AND an inspiration to her family ... and that's pretty powerful.