Student Spotlight: Jennifer Chiavola
Major: Associate in Arts
In 2007, Jennifer Chiavola realized a dream that took over a decade to come to fruition – a diploma from College of DuPage.
Now she has received a bachelor's degree from Loyola University Chicago and is studying at Yale's Divinity School, from which she will graduate in 2012.
"I was in my mid-20s and thought I'd missed my window of opportunity to go to college," she said. "I was working with a woman in her mid-40s who was going to COD and was really inspired by her."
Chiavola, a single mother at the time, worked two jobs and registered for one course at a time. When her car needed a repair or a bill needed to be paid, she took a semester off, always returning the next session for another class.
"I loved it. I have always valued an education," she said. "I just took it one semester at a time."
More than a decade after her first class, Chiavola earned her degree in May 2007 and transferred to Loyola University Chicago, where she studied both theology and ethics and moral philosophy. She graduated in May 2010, as did her eldest son, Mike, who attended Eastern Illinois University.
Despite all her achievements, Chiavola admits that while she was excited to attend Yale, she did not underestimating the challenges in front of her.
"I worked so hard, but I feel like it's possible for anyone who sets their mind to it to achieve the same goal."
Chiavola credits a large part of her success to the mentoring she received from the co-worker who inspired her to register for classes at COD, as well as the faculty she met while studying at the College, especially part-time faculty member Allan Carter.
"He was one of the first instructors I had at the College and he's been so motivating, one of my greatest mentors," Chiavola said.
Carter, she said, always challenged her to achieve more and continues to offer his support and guidance.
"Theology, especially ethics, is so important because it critically analyzes contemporary social issues," Chiavola said of her studies. "People base their lives and many decisions on the ethics derived from their religion. Theology isn't just Bible study. It's applying the ideals of religion, philosophy and ethics to important contemporary issues such as poverty, globalization, immigration, the economy and war."
For Chiavola, the eradication of poverty has become her focus. While at Loyola, she traveled to El Salvador for two weeks, studying the reality firsthand.
"It's one thing to study statistics and theory on poverty, but it's another to see it and put a face to it," she said.
After spending two years at Yale, Chiavola hopes to teach as she firmly believes education is fundamental to change. She'd also like to lead experiential learning immersions similar to the one she had in El Salvador.
"My goal is to take all I've had the privilege and opportunity to learn and use it to make a difference in the world," she said.