When balancing college, raising two boys and running a business overwhelms 43-year-old Anne Murray, she remembers something her mother used to tell her: “You can do anything for a short period of time.”
Murray and more than 1,000 students will graduate from Washington State University Vancouver this weekend. In some ways, Murray exemplifies what the suburban campus is all about.
She’s a nontraditional student who transferred from Clark College. She’s a single mother, raising two active boys. And, as is the case for so many college graduates, Murray leaves school this week feeling like her life has changed.
“I walked out of there with so much confidence, feeling so empowered in what I can do,” she said.
Murray on Saturday will receive her bachelor’s degree in digital technology and culture. She plans to pursue a career in graphic design. And while it may have been a short period of time, like her mom would say, it’s certainly been a busy one.
If You Go
What: Washington State University Vancouver’s commencement ceremony.
When: 1 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Sunlight Supply Amphitheater,17200 N.E. Delfel Road, Ridgefield.
Cost: The ceremony is open to the public. No tickets are required.
She’s already freelanced for companies, including Battle Ground’s Silagy Sauce. Right now, she’s helping develop apps for Vancouver Parks and Recreation, and Corwin Beverage Company. She was recently nominated for The Columbian’s Best of Clark County competition in the graphic design category (voting is over and winners will be announced in June).
Dene Grigar, director of WSUV’s Creative Media and Digital Culture Program, said Murray’s reputation preceded her. Faculty in the program put together something called a “superheroes” list, including students who are driven, talented and prime candidates for internships or special projects. Murray was on that list early on.
“She had incredible talent for design. She seemed to have industry experience. She knew how to work with people already,” Grigar said.
Being a “superhero” in school was new territory for Murray, who said she was never a great student in high school. But this time around, Murray had new motivation: her family. Her youngest son was just a baby when she started college. Now, her boys, Haydan and Harrison, are 14 and 7, respectively.
“My kids have been my main driving force,” she said.
Before starting college, Murray worked at DESI Telephone Labels as a customer service representative. The Vancouver company designs plastic covers and labels for phones, often for hotels. It’s a niche market, so when Murray was laid off in 2013, “there was no finding work in that field,” she said.
“It was tough,” she said. “It was really hard to make ends meet. I never wanted to be in that position anymore.”
The only option was to go back to school, starting first at Clark before transferring to earn her bachelor’s degree. She had to give it a try to make sure her boys had a better life.
“I need to set the right example for them,” she said.
Murray also drew inspiration from her mom, Cindi Hedlund, who was in school herself when Murray was growing up. Murray’s father was a tugboat skipper and would be gone for long periods of time while Hedlund attended nursing school, worked and raised the children.
“It’s a juggling act,” Hedlund said. “You have to be pretty focused and dedicated to get it done.”
So when Murray was in classes going through experiences familiar to Hedlund, she knew just what to say to encourage her daughter.
“It’s only a period of time,” she said. “You can get through it. You got this far.”