When Beth Poulter stepped onto Alverno’s campus five years ago, she couldn’t believe how big the trees had gotten. Planted by her father, Bill Poulter, before she was born, the trees were rooted, strong and reaching outward. As she started on this new chapter, the trees were, in hindsight, symbolic of herself.
Years ago, in 1963, Bill was part of the crew that took care of campus. He remembers that time well. “The buildings were there, but there was no landscaping,” he said of Alverno’s campus. He plowed snow in the winter and tended the landscaping during summer. “We cut grass with a 22-inch lawnmower. All that grass on campus – by the time we were done, it was time to start all over,” he said with laugh.
This December, 50 years after those trees were planted, Bill will return to Alverno. He’ll be here to honor the achievement of his daughter, Beth, who graduates with a degree in Biology.
For the past 16 years, Beth has worked for the United States Postal Service (USPS). As someone who has always struggled with tests, she took the Civil Service exam and passed. “I felt I could make a career at the post office.” But after all her time and hard work, she has little seniority. It was time to try something else.
“I’ve always loved animals and wanted to do something in that area,” Beth recalled. She enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, but it was not a good fit. “The class sizes were too big, and I felt there was no personal attention.”
She left UWM, but two years later wanted to try school again. “I knew Alverno. I heard the class sizes were small and the curriculum appealed to me.” She also knew some Alverno graduates who told her about the individual attention students receive.
Working second shift, Beth enrolled in weekday classes in 2008 and declared a Biology major. “The first year was tough,” she remembered, but studying had always been a struggle for her. And then something amazing happened. “By the second year I learned to ask for help.” And because Alverno teachers pay attention, Beth was diagnosed with dyslexia. It was as if Beth was seeing everything in a different light. “I was like – ‘Wow! Thank you!’”
Although learning took on a different meaning and challenge, it was one she faced knowing the obstacles. “I still have the bookmark given to me at our invocation when we were freshmen. It says, ‘You don’t have to know the answers, just where to find them.’ So now I have the tools.”
Beth wants to be a wildlife biologist. She has applied for 13 jobs. “I’m excited to graduate, but a little scared too. I’m 48 and trying to find a new job.” But change is nothing new to Beth. She got married three years ago to Richard Neubauer. “I guess I’m just a late starter.”
On December 21, her father will be there to watch Beth’s commencement ceremony. “I have always been proud of her,” Bill said. Late starter or not, Beth is ready for her next challenge: rooted, strong and reaching outward.