Undergraduate students in the University of Richmond School of Professional and Continuing Studies (SPCS) will tell you that the path toward an undergraduate degree doesn’t always follow a straight line connecting high school to college. There are detours along the way — a college simply doesn’t “fit”; funding undergraduate studies becomes too burdensome; starting a family takes precedence over classwork; or a lucrative career opportunity beckons.

Regardless of the detours, what remains intact throughout the experience is passion.

Megan Barger, C’14, graduated from high school with a passion for law. She enrolled in Randolph-Macon College right out of high school, but, as she puts it, her “heart just wasn’t in it.” She elaborates, “I knew that college was a huge commitment that I was not willing to take on at that time of my life.” As a result, she left school and relocated to Ohio.

But she wasn’t ready to give up studies and, in doing so, give up her passion. After a few years in Ohio, she enrolled in a local community college and earned an associate’s degree in paralegal studies. She worked as a litigation paralegal for three years in Dayton, then relocated to Richmond in 2011.

Three disparate conditions collided to bring Barger to SPCS: her ongoing passion for law; her sister’s graduation from SPCS; and her family’s educational background.

Barger’s sister earned a teacher licensure preparation certificate through SPCS in 2012. As a result, SPCS mailed to Barger’s parents a course catalog, where Barger discovered the school’s bachelor’s degree program in Paralegal Studies.

“My mom, dad, and sister all earned their bachelor's degree after attending a university right out of high school,” notes Barger. “Another motivation for me to return to school was so that I was not the only person in my immediate family without a bachelor's degree.”

Since her sister and parents had all earned bachelor’s degrees directly out of high school — and since her mother earned a master’s degree in education in 2011, now working as the gifted program coordinator for Chesterfield County Public Schools — Barger knew she had the family support she needed to return to school and complete her degree. And a degree in paralegal studies would be excellent preparation for law school and following her passion for law.

Barger enrolled in a single class in summer 2012, then started full-time studies in the fall. Like her mother had done during her graduate studies, Barger coupled full-time study with full-time work. She served, and continues to work, as an Immigration Paralegal at Hyder & Overas here in Richmond. The schedule was grueling.

“My mom has been an outstanding mentor for me while achieving my degree as a full-time paralegal and student. Since I was a little girl, my mom has been nothing but supportive of me and my dream of being an attorney,” Barger reflects. As for the grueling schedule, she admits, “I wouldn't have made it through the tough days without her!”

Barger worked fast to finish her degree: “I wanted to earn my bachelor's degree as fast as possible, so I could go on to law school.” Her next step? She’s pursuing her dream of becoming an attorney by studying law at Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Va., starting fall 2014.

Barger offers this advice to fellow working professional pursuing degrees: “Utilize all of the perks of being a student at University of Richmond.” Then she adds, “Form relationships with your fellow classmates. You will move through the program together, and establishing a core group of friends who are working and going to school just like you will help to maintain your sanity.”

Taking a full-time course load while working a full-time job is not the easiest way to earn a degree. Take it from Barger herself: “Being an adult student means that you must juggle additional responsibilities than the average, young adult students, such as family relationships, personal relationships, work, and school.”

For SPCS students like Barger who follow their passions through winding pathways, it’s all in a day’s week’s month’s year’s decade’s work.