Silvia Marinova’s dream since arriving in the United States has been to earn a bachelor’s degree.
Now, 20 years after fleeing discord in Bulgaria following the collapse of the Communist Party there, Marinova has achieved that. Marinova is a member of the first cohort of students in Clark College’s bachelor’s of applied science in applied management.
“I’m never going to forget the first time I saw Clark College,” Marinova said. “The thought I had in my head was ‘I wonder what it would be like to be a student in this college.’ ”
At a small ceremony Tuesday, which featured Marinova as the graduation speaker, 11 graduates celebrated their accomplishments and accepted their diplomas.
It’s an accomplishment decades and thousands of miles in the making for the 50-year-old Vancouver resident. Marinova, her husband and their then-young daughter left Bulgaria in 1998 after her husband was selected in a green card lottery, she said.
“Things were really, really bad,” Marinova said. “The economy was really bad, the crime rate was out of control. Scary times.”
Marinova spent about a decade learning English, picking up the language from television and working in a bagel shop. In 2007, she began her studies at Clark, earning a general associate degree and a medical office specialists associate degree.
Still, her dream of earning a higher degree evaded her until 2016, when Clark College announced the launch of the BASAM program. Marinova saw the program as a natural fit and a “wonderful opportunity.”
“I really liked being part of the first cohort,” Marinova said. “It’s making history. That’s something that will stay in the college history for many years.”
Clark College offers three bachelor’s of applied sciences programs, and is working on developing additional degrees, a shift from the more traditional community college model.
“This is a big deal for Clark,” college President Robert Knight told those gathered at the graduation ceremony as the crowd applauded.
BASAM program director Patti Serrano called Washington a “trailblazer” in adding bachelor’s of applied sciences degrees to their public college offerings. The four-year degrees focus on hands-on skills intended to prepare students for the workforce. The BASAM program doesn’t focus on any specific subject area, rather giving students the soft skills necessary to lead in their chosen profession.
“This gives them so much more of an opportunity to professionally rise, to make more money, to feel more personal satisfaction,” Serrano said.
Marinova works at Clark College as the classroom support technician for the business technology department. She helps students manage their computers and install and navigate programs.
“I really enjoy helping people understand and helping them grow,” Marinova said.
Marinova hopes this new degree will lead to more opportunities at the college that’s become a second home for her since arriving in the United States.
“Things change all the time. Who knows what the future holds for us?” Marinova said. “This is definitely a degree that will open a lot of opportunities for me.”