[Vision2020] ‘She’s going to go far’: Work, parenthood and a language barrier won’t stop University of Idaho student from graduating

Moscow Cares moscowcares at moscow.com
Tue May 2 08:56:11 PDT 2017

Came a tribe from the north brave and bold . . .

Courtesy of yesterday's (May 1, 2017) Spokesman-Review.


‘She’s going to go far’: Work, parenthood and a language barrier won’t stop University of Idaho student from graduating

When Vetamunisa Lupfer started classes at the University of Idaho a little over four years ago, her written English was lacking. So she wrote essays in Otjiherero or Afrikaans, languages she learned growing up in Namibia, and then translated them, a few words at a time, onto a new document.

“It’s not easy at all,” she said of perfecting her English. “Up to this day I can’t even order some meals. I just point at pictures.”

But such challenges haven’t stopped Lupfer from finishing school. She’ll graduate next month with a bachelor’s degree from UI’s College of Business and Economics. Her coursework has spanned not one but three majors: business economics, human resources and operations management.

Eric Stuen, Lupfer’s adviser, said her academic performance is impressive, especially for a “nontraditional” student. On top of the language barrier, she’s raising a toddler son with autism. And at 35, she’s older than most of her peers.

“She’s sought out the opportunities that we had at our college and really made the most of them,” Stuen said. “She’s going to go far.”

Lupfer is one of countless “nontraditional” students at UI and other schools. The group is hard to define, but generally includes students outside the 18- to 24-year-old age group, those who work full-time and those with children.

As the American Association of State Colleges and Universities has noted, “the stereotypical student is but a sliver of today’s college-going population.”

UI’s vice provost for strategic enrollment, Dean Kahler, said the school has orchestrated “a deliberate push” to address the diverse challenges facing students. The school offers childcare, for example, and a range of mentoring and assistance programs. They help students learn everything from English to financial literacy to workplace etiquette.

The school has also stepped up recruiting at community colleges and other places in addition to high schools, Kahler said.

“Today’s student comes to a university with such a diverse set of things they want to learn about,” he said.

Lupfer was born and raised in Onderombapa, a cattle farming community in the arid desert of eastern Namibia.

In recent years, she said, the place has seen early stages of urban development, with more running water and solar electricity, more cellphones and cars. But when she lived there, the whole village was just nine rural homesteads.

“It was like living in nowhere,” she said, adding that the nearest grocery store was 70 miles away.

Lupfer had an American school teacher who inspired her to travel, so after several years working as a teacher herself, she boarded a plane to the United States. After a year in New Jersey and a brief stint in Baltimore, she arrived in Moscow, Idaho, in 2009 to work as a nursing assistant at Gritman Medical Center.

Three years later she was married, raising an infant and exhausted from the grisly details of her job at the hospital.

“I saw so many accidents and stuff that I had to take a break from nursing,” she said. “I didn’t really want to do that ever again.”

So she got a different job and enrolled at UI. Between classes in Moscow, she assembled electronics at Schweitzer Engineering Labs in neighboring Pullman.

Lupfer became fascinated by the manufacturing process and the way employees are managed in a large and growing company, and picked an academic field to match her new interests. While she enjoys traveling home to visit family, she said she’s in awe of her opportunities in the United States.

“The education system here is totally different than Namibia’s,” she said. “A high school student here will know so much more than a teacher back home.”

This year, her school projects involve working with Boeing to improve the company’s quality-control procedures and increasing labor efficiency at the steam plant that generates power for the UI campus. She lives in a small apartment with her son, Tonny, who has autism and doesn’t communicate at the level of most 5-year-olds.

She said she recently left her job at Schweitzer to spend more time for Tonny. Now she starts most days cleaning local health clinics at 6 a.m. On weekends she takes her son, who loves to swim, to an aquatic center in Clarkston.

“I have to have this part-time job so he can have his $20 swim in the pool,” she said with a motherly smirk.

Tonny goes to preschool in Moscow and sees a speech therapist and other specialists in Spokane, Lupfer said. She plans to move to Spokane after graduation and said she’s ready for the next challenge.

“I’m not looking for my dream job right away,” she said. But if she stumbles on the right opportunity, she said, “I’ll take it.”


Vetamunisa Lupfer, a student in the University of Idaho’s College of Business and Economics, poses for a photo at her apartment on Thursday, April 19, 2017, in Moscow, Idaho.


Seeya 'round town, Moscow, because . . .

"Moscow Cares" (the most fun you can have with your pants on)
Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://mailman.fsr.com/pipermail/vision2020/attachments/20170502/9e4626ef/attachment-0001.html>

More information about the Vision2020 mailing list