Marie Brown '03
American studies major, women’s’ studies minor
Senior advisor to the dean, George Washington School of Nursing
"For me, coming to Goucher, it seemed like they truly cared about me and wanted me to succeed."
What was your major at Goucher?
My major was American studies and I made my decision a little backward. As a transfer student, I was more concerned with trying to find the place that was a good fit for me. I remember looking at the [Goucher academic] catalogue thinking, one of these has to work. American studies was my first exposure to an interdisciplinary major. That was attractive, the opportunity to have a mix of courses from different disciplines.
I attended Essex Community College, now CCBC Essex, and I enjoyed it there. But Goucher was the first campus I visited where it felt like a very traditional idea of a college campus, a very pastoral setting. The person I met with that day was just so lovely and welcoming. I'm black American, and I think there's even research that for minority students, that is one of the most important factors when we're trying to select a college. You want to be somewhere where you feel welcome and comfortable. I had such a great visit to the campus that I knew I wanted to be there.
What do you do now professionally?
My first job in higher ed was at Goucher, a summer position in Student Administrative Services. And I loved it, because I loved Goucher. I got another part-time job at a community college in Baltimore, then I got a full-time job working at Goucher in Alumnae/i Affairs, and then I went to graduate school. I've been working in higher ed ever since then. Now I'm the senior advisor to the dean of nursing [at GW].
It's been a very deliberate career path for me and it started at Goucher, literally from that advice. It's also where my love of higher ed started.
Are there things you learned at Goucher that you still use in your life or career
Women's studies was my minor, and Irline Francois was so passionate about women's rights and human rights. She was the type of professor where you didn't want the class to end. She made the material come alive. Even today, when I'm reading something about [a social injustice], I always think of her. I just had so many meaningful classes and connections, especially with my professors at Goucher.
What led to your decision to transfer to Goucher?
I'm a very pragmatic person. My goal [in going to CCBC] was just to get a better job. I was a really good student in high school, and then I dropped out of college my freshman year. I worked for a couple of years, and went to community college just because I wanted a better career. But I fell back in love with learning, and I decided I might as well go ahead and complete the bachelor's degree. Goucher certainly wasn't the cheapest option, but it was the campus that felt like home for me, the right fit.
What do you consider to be the important aspects of the Goucher experience?
I think the faculty have so much power and influence over the student experience. A bad faculty member or a devastating word or poor feedback can derail someone academically. For me, coming to Goucher, it seemed like they truly cared about me and wanted me to succeed. Mary Marchand, an English professor, I was in her office 30-35 minutes, talking about whatever we discussed in class. She always made me feel like she had time for me.
Another one is Kelly Brown Douglas. Kelly is one of the most charismatic people you'll ever meet. She introduced us to some really powerful stuff, [teaching] unapologetically about black theology. And for a predominately white campus, it was really important to have that introduced into the curriculum. I can look back and realize that Goucher was always ahead of the curve when it came to social justice. A lot of campuses are getting into that now-that's been Goucher. Goucher's always been about trying to do the right thing and trying to be responsible and responsive to all members of its campus community.
What advice would you give to those who are beginning the college application process?
It's very important to make a campus visit. There's so much pressure now to try to get into certain schools that students can feel like they have to pretend to be someone else during the application process. That never works. Be yourself. You want to be at a college that wants to have you there, a college that is going to be able to serve students like you, whatever your interests are, your background. You should choose the college that's right for you and your family, taking into consideration things like the financial aspects of it.
Choosing a college is not going to make or break you, not matter what anybody tells you. It's just one of many decisions that you will make. I'm very invested in encouraging students to go to college, but it shouldn't be a miserable process. I'm so happy I dropped out of my first college because I don't know if that path would have led me to where I am today: I have a great career, by all accounts pretty successful. And all of that happened because of Goucher.
And this is not me making lemonade out of lemons. Goucher was already lemonade.
Any other thoughts on transferring colleges or how to make the most of one's time
It is important to try to understand what credits are going to transfer, because that makes a difference. Then focus on what you need to do to get it done. You need to have a path to completion. It's up to you to make the most of your fresh start.
You want to go to a place that has transfer support services. I'm always suspicious of colleges that don't have dedicated staff to help transfer students. That tells me they don't handle a lot of transfer students, or they don't prioritize their transfer students. The person I met with [at Goucher] was somebody who specifically helped people who were transferring, and you heard how much of a difference that made to me when I visited.
Get to know your professors. Let them get to know you. Open your mind. Embrace what you can learn from them. There were people at Goucher who had experiences so different from mine, and they're worth getting to know. If you do those things and engage with the school, that's really important. You can access people in a way that you can't [at a larger university]. Take advantage of being at Goucher.