Education Without Boundaries
David Earl Ford Jr. says he tends to view things a “little bit different than normal,” which actually helped guide him to Goucher. The path he has taken to get to the college certainly is a bit atypical compared with other students. And even in a brief conversation, Ford stands out as someone who is extraordinarily well-read, culturally plugged in, and eager to learn for learning’s sake.
Ford, 34, is a student in the Goucher II program, which offers adults an opportunity to complete or begin their undergraduate studies as either part-time or full-time students. These Goucher II students enroll in the same rigorous course of study offered to traditional-aged undergraduates and are held to the same high academic standards.
“The only difference that I can see in being a Goucher II student versus anybody else is the application process,” says Ford.
He first went to college at the usual age in Salt Lake City and studied for a few years until finances and “life circumstances” forced him to rethink his plans. Ford jokes that if he had had a chance to speak to Karl Rove at his appearance in Fall 2009, he would have been able to break the ice by pointing out that neither of them completed their political science degrees at the University of Utah.
After leaving the university, Ford worked in Utah for a few years as a waiter and bartender, eventually working his way up to managing a fine-dining restaurant and running a wine program for a local eatery chain. He also did a brief stint with eBay before deciding five years ago to come back East to resume his studies.
A friend who Ford met while working at the Borders bookstore in Towson strongly encouraged him to consider Goucher. This friend, who Ford deems “very smart and not easily impressed,” was won over by the college. Because this friend also shares his unconventional perspective on life, Ford took his recommendation.
Ford met with Amalia Honick, the director of Goucher II; they continued talking about his prospects in the program for nearly a year. He admits to having a “spotty academic career” when he was younger, but he truly felt that he was ready to return to college, to Goucher College specifically.
“At my age, I have certain goals. There are things that I am good at and I want to become better at, and I felt like this school would be demanding,” he says.
While always encouraging Ford, Honick was also perhaps a bit skeptical of his ability to succeed at Goucher until he proved his seriousness about returning to higher education. At Honick’s urging, Ford successfully took a semester’s worth of classes at Towson University in Fall 2008 and was accepted the following semester at Goucher as a junior.
Because his previous experiences in higher education were all at large public universities, he immediately noticed the key difference that small class sizes make in his ability to succeed academically.
“The professors here have the ability in each class to learn who each student is and what is going on with them and what their strengths are. [The professors] can devise ways to challenge them individually in the ways in which they need to be challenged,” he says.
In his three semesters here, Ford has really immersed himself in his coursework, particularly in the classes in his major — which is now English, not political science. In the gap years of his education he realized that a degree in politics and a possible career in law was not at all what he wanted.
“It’s been a struggle for me to figure out something I can do that I can count on for living comfortably. I also know what it means to wake up every day and dread going where you have to go, and it’s awful. No one wants that. It was a matter of finding something in my life that was meaningful to me, that gave life meaning,” he says.
He relishes the opportunities he has had in the classroom to read and write about Shakespeare, Homer, Milton, Hopkins, Joyce, and numerous others across the canonical spectrum.
When he graduates Goucher, Ford feels confident that he will continue on as soon as possible with graduate school. Though he still needs to research and apply to a master’s program, he envisions an eventual career that involves writing, particularly about the arts — literature and film.
“I think that whatever I wind up doing for money, for a career, writing will be a part of it,” he says.