“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” is a maxim that Agnes Peña has taken to heart. At the time a student at City College’s Center for Worker Education (CWE), she became discouraged in the aftermath of September 11. “I just couldn’t deal with going to school then,” she explained.
Eight years later, she picked up the ball again. This time, however, she went the distance and will graduate in June with a BA in interdisciplinary arts and sciences from the Division of Interdisciplinary Studies, as the CWE program is now known.
A native New Yorker who graduated from high school in Puerto Rico, her story took her to Miami. While her musician husband was breaking into that city’s burgeoning music scene, she earned an associate’s degree at Miami-Dade College.
Initially, she wanted to become a paralegal, but changed her mind after realizing she “liked lawyers, but didn’t like working for them.” A position in the human resources department at American Lawyer Media turned out to be a perfect fit. She moved to the company’s fledgling cable television network, Court TV, and rose to become vice president of human resources. Despite her success in the corporate world, she realized not having a bachelor’s degree would hold her back.
“I could have gotten another job, but I didn’t want to explain my lack of a bachelor’s. It’s a handicap.” In 2009, she returned to CWE as a full-time student to fulfill a “lifelong dream deferred.”
Not working was a tough financial decision, but Agnes says, “I don’t regret it at all. It’s been terrific. CWE gets you to think and question things a little more deeply and a little more importantly. You get a truly deep and broad palette of learning and come away with the tools to attack any area you are interested in.”
Agnes now plans to return to the human resources field, armed with new perspectives that she says will enable her to contribute more. She also plans to apply to the Division’s new Master of Arts in the Study of the Americas program, but as a part-time student. “I’m a lifelong learner now,” she adds.
“CWE gets you to think and question things a little more deeply and a little more importantly.”
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