Two women continue to help me be a better person.

Rovy Branon

Vice Provost, Continuum College, University of Washington

Seattle, WA

I like to say that I began my career in education as a rock and roll drummer and then followed the obvious path to vice provost at a leading research university. The longer story, as you might suspect, has a few twists and turns. My high school years were not characterized by serious academic endeavors. The high school guidance counselor recognized my disinterest and suggested that college was not likely an option—“perhaps take industrial shop classes?” He may have been correct at that moment in my life, but that didn’t mean I would never be ready.

Despite having little early academic inclination, I was fortunate to have two educators in my life that wouldn’t let the voice of my high school counselor determine my trajectory. My mother, Lucinda Morris, never let me give up on the idea of going to college and she continued to gently cajole, nudge, and most importantly, support me when I was ready. A middle school teacher for many years before retirement, she is fiercely intelligent and continues encouraging my inquiry and learning. Note: never challenge my mom to a game of Scrabble unless you have an extensive vocabulary.

Before returning to college as an adult learner, I met another educator who became the love of my life, Samantha Johnson. Our son was born during my sophomore college year and she somehow found a way to support him and me. She worked as a daycare teacher to put me through my undergraduate years and later as a special education teacher while I completed my graduate studies. We supported each other through our learning journeys, which have included multiple moves across the US, but I couldn’t have achieved success without her.

Over the course of my life, many people have given me a nudge (or a shove!) into uncomfortable learning spaces. Learning something new is always difficult and sometimes, even painful. Overcoming fear of that discomfort is the first step to an open mind, but it isn’t easy without support. I am so fortunate to have two women in my life who continue to help me be a better person every day.

Dr. Rovy Branon is the vice provost for Continuum College at the University of Washington in Seattle. Continuum College serves more than 55,000 adult and continuing education learners each year. Branon is also the 2020-2021 board president for the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA).

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