Meet the graduates

Vicki Dawson with her 3 year old granddaughter Sadi King. <br />Photos by Rhiannon Trask, Lollipop Photography

Vicki Dawson '11, graduated in May – after 10 years.

Vicki Dawson '11 is a mom, grandmother and very hard worker. She celebrated 20 years of service with State Farm in mid-May.

College always intimidated her, but a special Columbia College associate dean persuaded her to try it, and she began taking classes the same day as her son, Cole.
Nearly 10 years later, she walked across the stage to accept her bachelor's degree in business administration with a major in management.

Vicki is 53.

Here is her story, in her own words.
  • Where are you from?
Centralia, Mo.
  • Tell us about your family.
I’ve been married for almost 36 years, and we have two grown children. Our daughter, Codi, lives in Columbia, Mo., is married, and has a 3-year-old daughter, Sadi. Our son, Cole, lives and works in Centralia.
  • How long have you been at State Farm?
I will celebrate 20 years with State Farm on May 13. With graduation, Mother’s Day and my work anniversary, that week was an exciting time for me.
  • What positions have you held in those 20 years?
I started with State Farm in the accounting department then moved to public affairs. That’s where I was when I started my college classes. Because of a company restructure, I was asked to make a move to human resources, then applied and was chosen for a job in learning and development. When the restructure was settled and a job opened in public affairs, I decided that’s where I wanted to be so I moved to that position.
I stayed with that job until recently when the company decided to perform departmental studies, and I had a feeling that my position would not stay. So I took control of my career and accepted a position in administrative services loss prevention. That’s where I am today.
  • What prompted you to take classes with us?
The culture of my family is relatively uneducated with my youngest sister being the only college graduate. I always wanted to take college classes, but in my younger years I was way too intimidated. I didn’t think I had the ability to be successful in college. Also, there was never enough money for college tuition.

So when Eric Cunningham (associate dean, Division of Adult Higher Education) showed up at State Farm in 2001 to solicit interest in bringing classes to State Farm, I was very interested, but again very intimidated. Cunningham took all the intimidation out of starting my college career by allowing us to register at work and choosing the classes to be offered each session. That assistance combined with the fact that State Farm has a tuition reimbursement program that pays 100 percent [for A’s and B’s] made my decision to start taking classes a much easier one. So, on Aug. 20, 2001, the same day that my son started college, I took the first step of my college career. I only hoped that I could make the required grade to get at least half my money reimbursed. I’m happy to say that I haven’t paid a dime for my education, I was inducted into Sigma Beta Delta, I was awarded the Carol Frobish Scholarship and I graduated summa cum laude, debt free, on May 7.
  • How on earth did you stick with it for 10 years?
It was extremely hard. This is especially true considering all the changes I’ve gone through at State Farm. I am a very social person, so missing out on extracurricular and family events was tough. I started out with the idea that I would just take a class at a time and see how far I could get. I remember how excited I was when I earned my first three credits. Then, I set a goal to reach 60 hours so I could substitute teach if I happened to lose my State Farm job. When I reached that goal, there was no way I was going to quit pursuing a bachelor’s degree.
I did step away from taking a class when my granddaughter was born in August of 2007. That was the same time Columbia College made the decision to terminate classes at State Farm. I was devastated, but after visiting with Eric Cunningham about my options, I started taking online classes. I did that throughout the remainder of my classes until the last one.
  • What do you hope to accomplish with your degree?
I will be working for 10 more years, so having a degree will help me be more competitive for whatever positions might become available. I’d love to have the option to work in the marketing arena or continue following my public affairs passion. However, one thing is certain, pursuing a college degree has given me the edge as I’ve sought out opportunities within State Farm. Taking classes for 10 years has shown the management in this company that I have the perseverance to complete tasks and reach goals. And I’m sure I will use my education and new found skills well into retirement.

For more of Dawson's story, go to


Anonymous said...

Congratulations from a fellow nontraditional student and fellow graduate, Dec. 2010. I was just accepted into the Criminal Justice graduate program at Columbia College. Good luck with State Farm or wherever your career and new college degree lead you.

Anonymous said...

Vicki is an incredibly strong and dedicated woman to stick with this for 10 years. But, strength and dedication are only a small number of her positive traits. She is also sweet, warm and compassionate. In the short amount of time that I've known her I can say I am proud to call her a friend.

Congratulations Vicki and great job!