Father, Daughter to walk in NLU Chicago 2013 commencement
by Mark Donahue
Commencement at NLU is a special time, as families look forward to seeing a student — a son, daughter, sister, brother or parent — walk across the stage and begin a new chapter in life. For one Chicago family this year, that excitement is going to be double.
Vince Woods, 56, and his daughter, Fallon Brooks, 29, will both participate in commencement this Saturday at the Arie Crowne Theater. It will mark the end of a journey that both have said helped them grow closer while preparing them for the future.
"I just think of the irony that I'm her dad, fifty-six, getting my bachelor's degree; she's my child, twenty-nine, getting her master's," Vince said with a laugh, adding that he's very proud of his daughter.
The journey for each to NLU was a little different. Vince saw the importance of pursuing a degree for job security and as way to advancement. He'd already gotten his associate's degree in physical education from a city college and was working as an addiction counselor — a job he did full time while pursuing his Bachelor's in Applied Behavioral Sciences at NLU.
For Fallon, who works part time as a special education aide for high schoolers in the Chicago Public Schools system, she wished to sharpen her skill set beyond her bachelor's studies with a Master's in Education in Early Childhood Administration.
Both said they truly enjoyed their NLU experience. Fallon liked the support she received from faculty and staff, and Vince gained new perspective that has helped him in understanding and communicating with his clients on the job.
"One of the things that really made sense to me at my age is taking a look at your life and, say, something you've been doing for the last forty years and see today you need to change it or take a different look at it," he said. "That was really amazing."
As working adults, both father and daughter also appreciated how their programs gave them flexibility: a full-online cohort M.Ed. for Fallon and a 15-month intensive bachelor's with Saturday classes for Vince. "Once I got in, it was just tailored to my life," he said.
Fallon began her NLU studies first in June 2011, with her father starting in January 2012 — and a new dimension in their relationship emerged, as father and daughter became peers in academics.
"We really just encouraged each other," Fallon said. "It was a lot of hard work, a lot of long nights, but we both really helped each other as best we could. I think it kind of made us grow a lot closer, too."
Vince, a father of three, agreed and said he's had a chance to connect even further with Fallon, who spent a period of time living out of state.
Now both are looking at the next step. Vince was able to turn his new bachelor's into a promotion, as a mental health professional with Human Resources Development Institute in Chicago. Fallon plans to dive back into her work in CPS classrooms, setting her sights on becoming an early childhood education site manager. Ultimately she wants to own her own childcare center.
It's much to be proud of, and a big group of family and friends will be on hand to cheer Vince and Fallon this Saturday. It will be a special feeling, Fallon said, to see her dad in his cap and gown. She couldn't contain a daughter-like giggle.
"I know I'm going to be kind of tickled," she said, "because it's like, 'Oh my god, my dad is walking across the stage.'"