Education graduates of southwest Kansas walk at commencement

Aug 03, 2023
Education graduate's cap reads "It takes a big heart to shape little minds."

Several students from southwest Kansas walked at Newman University’s commencement ceremony on May 12.

Four such students attended Newman’s Dodge City outreach location, where they pursued their bachelor’s degree in elementary education. This Accelerated Pathway to Teaching program enables students to earn their degree in just 16 months with courses offered at night, making it a great fit for adult learners. 

“The celebration of commencement day acknowledges our graduates’ hard work and dedication throughout their education journey,” said Jessica Bird, interim dean of the School of Education and Social Work.

“It reflects the mutual pride between the graduates, their families, and our outreach education program. We believe that the preparation provided by our Newman faculty and staff fully empower each of the graduates to transform society. We are so proud of each of them and know that they are well on their way to making a positive impact on the lives of many students.”

A family-like experience 

Jennifer Ochoa, who earned an associate’s degree from Dodge City Community College in 2018, first learned of Newman’s Accelerated Pathway to Teaching program at an information event held at Red Beard Coffee in Dodge City. 

Jennifer Ochoa
Jennifer Ochoa

“They had a lot of good information, and I got really intrigued,” she said. 

Ochoa said the 16-month program was a fun experience, and she enjoyed the relationships she built with her cohort of 12 students. 

“I got to meet so many new people,” she said. “We all have different personalities and diversities in this class. We all became like a family. We got to help each other learn, and our professors were just so amazing. They were so helpful. They were the best thing that could have ever happened.”

Today, Ochoa teaches fifth grade at a local elementary school. Her biggest advice for others who are considering Newman’s Accelerated Pathway to Teaching program is to simply go for it. 

“Don’t be scared because you think you’re older and you think you’re not going to learn anything or get much of an experience,” she said. “You will. The professors help you out so much.” 

Friends pursue degree together 

Mattisyn Tieben
Mattisyn Tieben

When Mattisyn Tieben, who has a background in cosmetology, got the urge to return to school for her degree, her friend Julisa Murillo encouraged her to check out Newman’s Accelerated Pathway to Teaching program. She did, and within a week of doing so, she was enrolled. 

“It was very family oriented,” she said. “The girls in the classroom, they all became a huge part of my life. They’re all family now. It’s been amazing.”

For her friend Murillo, it’s always been her goal to finish her bachelor’s degree, which she did this past December. She also appreciated all the friendships she built within her program cohort. 

A big accomplishment

Like Ochoa, Crissa Salmans learned of the Accelerated Pathway to Teaching program at an information event in Dodge City. Now that she holds a bachelor’s degree, she looks back on her program experience with gratitude. 

Crissa Salmans walks the stage during Newman’s commencement.

“It’s been a rewarding and wonderful experience,” she said. “The southwest Kansas group has been amazing to work with.”

Salmans added, “They are very understanding of nontraditional students and how important it is for us to have a job and finish education at the same time.”

Julisa Murillo
Julisa Murillo

And for Murillo, who’s now teaching fourth grade at Ross Elementary in Dodge City, graduating with her bachelor’s degree is “very significant.”

I’m the oldest of my siblings, so I’m the role model,” she said. 

Her advice to future Accelerated Pathway to Teaching program students is to “keep going.”

“It will get a little tough, but if you keep pushing, you’ll get through it,” she said. “As soon as you know it, you’ll be done and you’ll look back and think to yourself, ‘How did I accomplish this?’”

Earn an education degree at Newman University

Newman University was founded in 1933 with the purpose of training future teachers. The School of Education and Social Work is continuing the legacy of preparing students to transform society in the Wichita area, throughout Kansas and across the nation.