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Long Road to Degree Worth Every Bump; Mike Gross '11

photo Photo: Susan Angstadt

He's a husband and a father. He works full time as Albright's associate director of public safety, volunteers as an Albright Service Excellence trainer, and holds a second part-time job. Now, after more than a decade, he's also a graduate of Albright College.

To say that the road to a degree— or two—was long and hard for Mike Gross '11 is an understatement. But don't fuss over him too much. Modest to a fault, Gross blushes at the fanfare. "A lot of working people are in DCP [Degree Completion Program], and it's not easy for a lot of them," he says.

Modest as he is, Gross' accomplishment is no small feat. In 1995, a year after his son Kris was born, he began working at Albright and shortly thereafter began his college education by taking classes in the tradit ional day program. "I enjoy learning, and I wanted to have the college experience," says Gross, who joined the Marines right out of high school.

For years Gross enjoyed the many interesting courses he took, even though
he didn't actually need all of them. In fact, he had so many credits that he ended up with two degrees—history and criminal justice—and was only a couple courses shy of a third degree in education. He even completed an early field experience in a third-grade classroom at 13th & Union elementary school.

But in 2008, after talking with an adviser and realizing that he needed to finish for himself and for his family, he enrolled in Albright's DCP.

How did he manage to balance full-time work and school and find time to coach his son's baseball and soccer teams? Aside from being a Type-A personality, Gross points to one thing. "I've got a great wife!" he says proudly.

Natascha, his wife of 18 years, "has been a huge part of it (the journey)," he says. "She's been so supportive through it all and was thrilled for me. She knows what I put into it. I think she's relieved it's finally over too," he chuckles.

While Natascha agrees that she is relieved that it's over, she says she could not be more proud of her husband. "He always found time to be there for our son Kris, and he often stayed up late into the night studying if he had to in order to spend time with us. He always put us on the front burner," she says.

At the December Commencement ceremony, Gross accepted the degrees on behalf of his class. In his remarks, he said, "It's great to get a degree, but the best thing about an education is that it opens your mind to points of view you wouldn't have otherwise had."

For Gross, the biggest lesson learned has been to go outside your comfort zone in learning. "Read books and articles, view movies, and participate in discussions you normally stay away from," he says. "You will be surprised at the world that opens up before you."

Coincidentally, Gross says, now that he's finally finished with his undergraduate education, his son Kris will begin his college experience at Albright this fall.

– Jennifer Post Stoudt

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