Gallagher ’21 Finishes Degree 19 Years In The Making

March 10, 2021 Caitlin Burns

Arcadia University student Susan Gallagher
By Katherine Haines '21

Education Studies major Susan Gallagher ’21 returned to Arcadia University this past fall to finish her degree that she started in 2004.

After earning her associate’s degree in Elementary Education from the Community College of Philadelphia in 2003, Gallagher taught preschool at the Naval Support Activity Child Development Center. While there, Gallagher started at Arcadia as a part-time student majoring in Elementary Education—until 2010, when she decided to take a break to get married and start a family.

Gallagher now  works as a logistician on the subsistence team at Defense Logistics Agency where she provides food support to troops and schools.
 
“We provide subsistence support to troops within the continental United States and I also oversee the fresh fruit and vegetable program for about 5,000 schools across 4 states,” said Gallagher. “I really like that part because I feel like my job is aligned with my education encouraging students to eat healthy and be healthy. It’s not just about doing your work, you have to have the energy and be healthy in order to learn.”

As part of this program, Gallagher helps coordinate the federal government’s partnership with the USDA in providing K-12 schools with quality fresh fruits and vegetables through contracts with local farmers. 

However, her job changed when the COVID-19 pandemic hit: When schools closed, they canceled close to 2,000 orders of produce from farmers, leaving the food with nowhere to go and children facing the possibility of food scarcity at home.

“I reached out to a couple of my team members the following week and we coordinated with people in the school districts and their representatives for a solution,” said Gallagher. She didn’t want to see all of the food go to waste. “They were okay with going to the school in full PPE and we delivered the products to them. They boxed it up individually and then allowed families to come and pick up the boxes.” 

As a full-time employee, Gallagher was able to return to school to finish her degree because of Arcadia’s All-Modes Ready approach during the pandemic. While she decided to change her major from Elementary Education to Education Studies, which she says fits her career better now, she was still only one year away from graduating. So, in the Fall 2020 Gallagher logged into her first virtual class and will now graduate in May. 

“I thought I was going to be stressed, and have to hide my life from the camera, but I really didn’t,” said Gallagher. “Everything has just been connected in this awesome way through the virtual experience. I know a lot of people struggle, but honestly for me, it’s been a blessing because it gave me the flexibility I needed to complete my degree since I’m a full-time employee.”

Gallagher hopes that she will be able to contribute better to her community through her degree. In her internship class and capstone work, she is working on developing programs that would connect people in her community with their local library and its programs in order to help them learn and work toward their career goals.

“With a degree and with that knowledge, you can actually be that change,” said Gallagher. “For me, I want to be part of that change and that improvement in my community, and I think that anyone can apply that to themselves and what they’re learning.”

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