Returning to college in my thirties, with a family and adult responsibilities, was a challenge ... but I never walked into a classroom alone. It was a 'family-education.' They stood behind me when I needed a gentle shove, in front of my when I need a reason to go on, and beside me throughout the journey.
Shelly Smith Law
Computer and Information Technology '96
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Shelly Smith Law

Computer and Information Technology '96
Business Analyst for ArvinMeritor, Inc.

When you go back to college after 10 years of marriage and three children, it's as Shelley Smith Law says, "a completely different experience." For one thing, she remembered the free time she enjoyed at 18 as a rare commodity. But, more important, after having assumed family responsibilities, she was more serious about her studies, her success, and her work.

And what about those years of rearing children, working part - -and full-time, and being heavily involved in church and community activities? Says Law, "...those multi-tasking skills that allowed me to balance my home, my children, my job, and my other responsibilities helped me achieve the successful balance necessary to manage the additional demands of my academic goals."

"I've continued to rely upon these skills as my goals have become more professionally based, and I find they are as beneficial as the techniques and knowledge I gained during my academic studies."

But as much as she enjoyed the technical abilities she was learning in the computer courses, she found she enjoyed as well the business and communications courses she was required to complete. Law explains: "It was when I signed up for an organizational leadership and supervision class to satisfy a technical elective that I realized a leadership role in the information technology field would allow me to combine technical development and leadership."

This is where her natural leadership abilities began to reveal themselves. Affirms Law, "In team-based or group settings, I more often than not found myself the leader ... the fact that I enjoyed leading a team toward a common goal was evident." In her present capacity as business analyst at ArvinMeritor, she says, "the environment provides the opportunity to work with both my team and our customers in a role that allows me to continue to combine my two favorite interests."

Law and her "trio," as she calls them, her children - Koke, ReBecca, and Levi - and her partner, Rex, continue to enjoy the surroundings her family has called home for seven generations: she was brought up in two Indiana state parts. Says Law, "Living in areas that are maintained and created purely for the enjoyment and preservation of nature has served to strengthen my attraction to the rolling hills and picturesque valleys of Brown County."

This was originally written for the Distinguished Technology Alumni Awards in 2003.