Teri Roath's Journey to Degree Completion

When Teri Roath went to register for her first University of Minnesota class after a 25-year break, she and her advisor, Lisa Garrett, were delighted to discover that she just needed to complete a little paperwork.

It turns out she had already been admitted to the University but her student status was just “discontinued.” So all that was required was to fill out a Change of College form to be readmitted to the University and change her major to Multidisciplinary Studies (MdS).

“After 25 years, all I had to do was sign a form that transferred my record,” she laughs.

Jumping In with Both Feet

Teri Roath sits outside on a stone wall next to her dog, a yellow lab.

Returning to school actually did happen pretty quickly for Teri. After finding the MdS major on the University of Minnesota website, she reached out to an advisor and made an appointment for the next day. She met with Lisa Garrett, and the day after that she was registered for a class.

“My intention with going back to school is to finish my four-year degree and go on to seminary and not have to go the religious studies route,” Teri says. “Because although that's great, it wouldn't teach me the things that I need to be a pastor, which includes administrative tasks.”

With the MdS degree, students can choose three out of five areas of study, which allows them to customize their program to match their goals. For Teri, that meant a lot of business courses to round out her professional skills.

“Having the applied business aspect was something that helped me grow personally,” she says. “I was able to take those leadership skills and apply them to my job and in my family setting. It's not just applied business—it should be called applied family, social, personal, business, everything.”

In addition, Teri built a minor in counseling by taking family social science courses. “I know that I've always wanted to help people, and the more I'm learning and the more I'm working with the church and my cousin (her current pastor), and the more I get under my belt, the more I know this is perfect.”

Realizing Her Gifts

By trade, Teri is an accomplished accountant with years of experience working for companies like Best Buy and the Science Museum of Minnesota. But after 23 years in the field, she decided it was time for a change.

“I was talking with my cousin, and she just out of the blue said, so when are you going to become a pastor? And it kind of hit me. I was like, why? She goes, yeah, so you've got gifts, you know, think about it.”

Teri talked it over with her husband, and within days, she was searching for online and evening courses, which is how she found the Multidisciplinary Studies program. Within a week of making her decision, she was enrolled in her first class.

“It's okay to be scared. Don't be afraid to succeed. You're worth it.”

And those gifts? Teri says she thinks what her cousin was referring to is that she stands up for people and that people tend to gravitate towards her when they’re having a bad day. “I would never tell somebody what to do,” she adds. “It’s more, let's think about this. Let’s talk about your options. You know the answer is there.”

Teri still works full time as a staff accountant and takes two online classes a term. With three kids, being able to take online classes has been a blessing. “It's great. I can work on my own schedule. I can do what I need to do, when I can do it.”

Getting Out of Her Own Way

Teri Roath sits outside on a stone wall next to her dog, a yellow lab.

For many adult students, returning to school can be filled with anxiety—anxiety about how they’re going to manage their time, adapt to new learning technologies, and perform academically.

On the flip side, it can amplify existing skills, provide exciting challenges, and confirm feelings of self-worth. “(Going back to school) gave me self confidence,” Teri says. “Receiving an A for a grade was proof that, okay, I can do this and I deserve it.”

It was an affirmation, she explains, that she struggled to give herself despite the praise she received from professors. “Even as we're talking about it right now, I'm kind of realizing that maybe I should listen. This is what I'm learning to do, just get myself out of the way of my success.”

Teri is thankful for the support of her professors and her family. It helped her realize that she was “worth the time and effort it takes to finish that goal of getting a degree,” which she will earn in about two years’ time.

“Some people may not think it's a big deal, but it's just one of those things that I've carried my adult life,” she says. “I just want to complete this one thing, and it's so worth it, it's so worth the hard work. It really is.”

Memorable Courses

Dynamics of Leadership with David Kaiser
The instructor considered Teri’s life and work experience and allowed her to customize certain assignments to more closely align with her goals. “I felt so empowered to make that course what I needed it to be.”

Grant Writing with Kate Mohn
“She is absolutely amazing and so smart. I'm able to work on this personal grant that I'm working on in real life to make it perfect. It's been wonderful and she's been super supportive.”

Advice for Returning Students

“It's okay to be scared. Don't be afraid to succeed. You're worth it.”


Teri is a recipient of the Osher Reentry Scholarship.