Jenny Andrews, GB'94, C'04, GC'16

May 12, 2017
3-time Richmond graduate seeks to advocate for teachers, students after latest degree program

Jenny Andrews, GB’94, C’04, GC’16, knows something about being a Spider. Despite earning her undergraduate degree elsewhere (for the record, a bachelor’s degree in business administration from James Madison University), the three degree programs she’s completed at Richmond suggest her allegiance lies with the Spiders.

Andrews graduated in December 2016 after completing her third program at the University of Richmond, and she walked across the stage for that degree during the School of Professional and Continuing Studies Commencement Exercises on Saturday, May 6, 2017. She earned her first Richmond degree, a Master of Business Administration, in 1994 from the Richard S. Reynolds Graduate School of Business, part of the University of Richmond Robins School of Business. A decade later, she graduated with a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Teacher Licensure Preparation from the School of Professional and Continuing Studies. And in December 2016, she graduated with a Post-Master’s Graduate Certificate in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from SPCS.

Andrews didn’t start out in education. Her undergraduate degree in business administration included a major in computer information systems and a minor in English. Her goal in earning the degree was to work with and serve people with programming, not to write and serve programs. That desire to serve others and their goals remains a theme throughout her professional experience and educational journey.

Her first job after graduating from JMU was as a programmer analyst with Reynolds Metals Company, not far from the Richmond campus. While working there, she learned about the Richmond MBA program by word of mouth from coworkers and colleagues. She attended an information session, and the approach at that information session helped her make her decision to enroll.

“Every time I’ve come [to campus],” she recalled, “they’ve asked me how the school can help me complete my degree.” No one has “sold” her a degree or a program of study; instead, in each encounter with the University of Richmond, she’s been asked how Richmond can help her achieve her goals. That experience, and the benefits of earning her MBA, kept her returning to Richmond for her evolving professional goals.

After earning the MBA, Andrews was promoted to an IT management position in a different division of Reynolds Metals. Her focus remained, even as an IT manager, on serving people — customer, clients, and co-workers alike — rather than serving programs.

After 12 years of working at Reynolds Metals, the company was purchased by Alcoa, and Andrews was offered a choice: transfer to Pittsburgh with Alcoa or leave the company. Married with three children, Andrews chose to transition to a stay-at-home mom in support of her kids’ education and upbringing.

As her husband observed her interacting with their children, he remarked that she was good with kids and wondered whether she might consider teaching as a new career. Those remarks coincided with her own convictions that her calling was to serve other kids, not just her own.

She returned to Richmond and met with Dr. Samuel Perry, then chair of the Teacher Licensure Preparation program in SPCS, and decided Richmond was once again the right fit for her goals.

“Sam is such a fabulous man,” remembers Andrews. “From the beginning he was interested in me as a person, making sure TLP was the right fit for me.”

“He sealed the deal,” she insists.

TLP was the right fit. The program provided exactly what she needed to become a successful classroom teacher. Her professors, both fulltime and adjunct, served as scholar-practitioners, many still actively working in local school divisions. She describes her classroom experience as “real life authentic learning” that was directly applicable to student teaching.

For 12 years Andrews taught second grade students in Chesterfield County Public Schools. As a professional, she sought to challenge herself to better serve her students, so in 2009 she earned her National Board Certification in literacy, focused on reading and language arts. A significant aspect of the certification process is intentional reflection, and personal and professional reflection emerged as a theme, in addition to being a Spider, that is woven throughout her experience.

Reflecting on her career led her to sense a deeper calling — to become an advocate for students and fellow teachers on a larger scale. So two years ago, with two kids in college and the third getting ready to go, she contacted the University of Richmond yet again and talked with Dr. Thomas Shields, chair of the graduate education program. Once again, Richmond responded to her interest by explaining how its programs could help her achieve her goals.

Shields’ focus on outcomes especially attracted Andrews. That’s exactly what she wanted to hear: How would earning a post-master’s graduate certificate in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies help her effectively advocate for the needs of students and teachers? The program addressed her needs exactly.

“I would arrive to class tired, but I would leave inspired,” she says of her ELPS classroom experience. “Our classes included educators and leaders from different levels [primary, middle, and secondary] and different divisions. Diversity made the classroom experience richer.”

The experience, and especially the internship requirement, enabled her to earn a position as assistant to the administrator at her school. In that position, she’s able to advocate on behalf of teachers and students alike. That’s exactly what she wants to do.

As Andrews reflects on her educational and professional pathway, she recognizes that service, and especially servant leadership, has been a constant throughout her experience. Honest self-assessment through intentional reflective practice, combined with that drive to service, have led her to where she is now.

Of course, none of this is possible without a strong support system. Andrews credits her family, professors, and coworkers with helping her achieve her goals and find her place in the world.

At least for now. She also recognizes that she catches a bit of a restlessness every few years that drives her to her next calling. That’s the hallmark of a life of reflection and service.