A former medic, Richard Foster worked for a number of years in computer project management before the dot-com tech bubble burst after 9-11. He switched gears to become a real estate broker with no real plans to return to college.
In 2010, Foster's kids, Christopher and Kathryn, were attending UNLV as a sophomore and a freshman respectively. After they lamented how challenging it was to be a student, Foster on a lark signed up for classes at the College of Southern Nevada. He wanted to show them that good grades were possible, even with a full-time job.
Now four years later, all three are graduating at UNLV's winter commencement. Christopher is earning a bachelor's degree in English and a focus on professional writing. Kathryn is earning a dual bachelor's in political science and anthropology with plans to go on for a Ph.D. in anthropology. Richard is graduating summa cum laude with a bachelor's in economics and minors in professional writing and real estate studies.
Which are you more proud of: your degree or your kids' degrees?
I am so proud of my children -- to watch them grow, learn, and become quality adults is a hell of a reward. With that said, yes, I am proud to have kicked both their butts in school. I am looking forward to graduation, as I will be dressed like Mr. T. I have five medallions (Honors College, Cohen Scholar, McNair Scholar, Phi Kappa Phi, and Lee School of Business), two cords (Phi Sigma Pi and Phi Kappa Phi), and two stoles (Phi Kappa Phi and Phi Sigma Pi/Summa Cum Laude) to wear related to my college accomplishments. I can't wait for the family picture on that day!
What advice do you have for other nontraditional students?
Never give up! Being a working adult with children and the "adult" pressures of life at times can be overwhelming. However, when all seems lost, reach out to your support system. Seek help. It is okay to admit that you cannot do it all alone. Make friends with the faculty -- their guidance will be invaluable.
Why was Phi Sigma Pi important to you?
I was furious when my daughter, along with one of the smartest students I know, were both denied membership in a sorority because they were both "too into their education." ... Natalie Schibrowsky (and I) are both Honors College students; we decided something had to be done. So we started UNLV's only honor fraternity, Phi Sigma Pi. I was honored to be the founding class president and Natalie was the founding class vice president. We just crossed our gamma class and I am looking forward to continuing to work with the chapter as an alumnus.
Is there a faculty or staff member at UNLV who particularly helped or inspired you?
Heather Lusty was my professor for HON 400 (Literature of War), served as my mentor for two McNair research projects, and served on my honors thesis committee. She has helped to improve my writing, but also has been a support when my health failed and I wanted to quit.
Marta Meana is the Honors College dean and has been a wonderful support. Again, when I was having health problems, I was considering quitting school or at a minimum dropping from the honors program. Dr. Meana gave me a hug, then all but slapped me up along side my head, and helped me find a path to success.
Some other staff who deserve "extra credit" include Tiffany Schmier (Honors College counselor), Terri Bernstein (McNair Scholars program), Angela Stone (Honors College), and Raquel O'Neill (DRC director).
What's next for you?
At this point I have no clue. I really want to attend law school, or as a fallback earn my MA in Economics and an MBA. But I have some health and financial issues to resolve first. At this time, I do not have the funding to continue my education and am too old to be taking out student loans to pay the way. While I figure it out, I will be studying in the spring for my GRE and LSAT tests and am considering taking classes at CSN in Calculus (doesn't that sound like fun?).
I also will focus on my business. While working on my degree, I have left the business on auto pilot, and now I need to give the business some love and attention too.