Bobby and Amanda Housden pose for a photo in front of the University Commons at EMU Thursday afternoon. The husband and wife duo will be graduating from EMU Sunday. (Photo by Daniel Lin/DN-R)

After returning to finish degrees, couple will graduate together

When Amanda and Bobby Housden started college more than a decade ago, they started off strong. But, one thing led to another, and life became so busy that school got placed on the back burner and they left college. However, two years ago, the couple dove back into the books through Eastern Mennonite University Adult Degree Completion Program.

On Sunday, during EMU’s commencement ceremony, the Shenandoah couple will be among 28 students to receive an undergraduate degree in leadership and organization management.

They say graduation day is even more special because they will be receiving their diplomas together.

“We supported each other,” said Amanda Housden, 34. “I’m proud we did this together.”

Amanda Housden, a 2003 Page County High School graduate, started at Blue Ridge Community College in Weyers Cave after high school.

A short time later, her grandmother became ill. In 2006, Amanda Housden gave birth to her first child, Hailey, now 13.

As a result, she put college on hold.

Bobby Housden, a 1993 Luray High School graduate, started taking classes online through University of Phoenix in 2007. He took a class here and there, but ended up stopping.

With some credits already completed, in 2017, the couple learned about EMU’s Adult Degree Completion Program, so they gave it a shot.

Bobby Housden started in August 2017, while Amanda Housden began in January 2018.

Margo McIntire, program coordinator for EMU’s Adult Degree Completion Program, said it is perfect for people in similar situations as the Housdens.

“It’s designed to enable working adults who want to complete their bachelor’s degree to be able to do so,” McIntire said. “The greatest strength of our program is that we follow a cohort model,” she said. “They start and finish the program with the same people. They support each other because they have similar challenges.”

One of the benefits, she said, is the classes meet once a week on the same day for the entire program.

The Housdens chose different ways to help accommodate their busy lives. When one was in class, the other was watching their two children, Hailey and Kinsley, 6.

“We didn’t need to make child care arrangements,” Amanda Housden said.

In addition to caring for their children, both maintained full time jobs. Amanda Housden is the human resource and benefits administrator at BRCC, while her husband is a senior business consultant at Badger Fire Protection in Ruckersville.

“Juggling all that on top of school was difficult,” she said. “We really found that we had to be disciplined … to set aside time to do our schoolwork.”

They had no problems staying focused.

While taking classes, both gave things up, including sleep for Amanda and hunting for Bobby. However, they made it a point to never miss any of their children’s extracurricular activities, including cheerleading and softball.

“You give up down time,” Bobby Housden said. “A lot of your free time is now spent doing work.”

McIntire said she’s proud of the work the students have done. “On a regular basis, I’m humbled by the things I see our students accomplish,” she said. “They are so committed. For a lot them, it was a dream that they had before, but life happened. Now they get that second chance.”

Amanda Housden said she hopes her story is inspirational for other parents. “It’s never too late to get your degree,” she said. “This program makes it possible.”

She also says it’s an important lesson for her children.

“As first-generation college graduates, we hope to set the precedent for our kids, and future grand kids,” she said.

After graduation, the couple plans to enroll in the graduate program.