By Ron Wagner ’93, Contributing Writer
Elle Cohen isn’t afraid of hard work, but work alone wasn’t going to advance her career any further.
“There are a lot of opportunities that come up at my job, and a great deal of the time, one of the criteria is that you have a bachelor’s degree,” she said.
Cohen has been a supervisor at BMW Manufacturing in Greer since 2007, holding down her full-time job while raising four kids—Erin, Erianna, Elyssa, and Angelo —now ranging in age from 15 to 21. In November of 2012, she wed and adopted a baby, Kai, born exactly one month later.
These responsibilities wouldn’t seem to leave much time for continuing her education, but Elle has been able to pursue this long-held goal thanks to Furman Undergraduate Evening Studies’ flexible scheduling and amenability to her tight schedule.
“Furman wants me to succeed,” she said. “They have always been willing to work with me as long as I show the effort.”
Cohen, a native of Greenwood, began at BMW nearly 16 years ago. Several years in, she earned an associate degree from Greenville Tech, making her eligible for her current position.
“My job is physically demanding, and I knew that the older I got, the more difficult it would be for me to continue that type of work,” she said.
That level of maturity and foresight is exactly what Furman is looking for in prospective students, according to UES director Beth Crews.
“Non-traditional adult students are very career-focused, so the majors we offer are in professionally-oriented fields such as Accounting, Business Administration, and Information Technology,” explained Crews. “The combination of Furman’s admission process and the small size of our program allow us to meet one-on-one with prospective students so that we can make sure UES will be a good fit. We want our students to succeed, to feel equipped to take the academic accomplishments made here far into their careers.”
Cohen fits another demographic Furman is looking for as well.
“Below is the list of recipients of ASL’s awards. I regret that you were not selected this time. For us, the local market is our market,” Crews said. “We’re not attracting students from the northeast or California. We serve adults from the Greenville, Spartanburg, Anderson area – that’s it.”
For Elle, being a Furman student at this point in her life has provided some fun, unexpected opportunities. With her oldest daughter, Erin, finishing her senior year at Coastal Carolina this year, mother and daughter were able to sit side-by-side as students of rival schools during Coastal’s Sept. 15 trip to Greenville to open the 2015 football season.
As for her family’s reaction to her going back to school, “They love it,” says Cohen. “They really think a lot of me for pushing myself to do it.”
She won’t have to push for much longer. Cohen is closing in on a degree in business administration and is set to graduate this May.
“It’s been a really good journey. It was much more of a smooth transition than I thought it was going to be,” she said. “I’m really, really excited about it just because it has been a long time coming.”
Her long journey to graduation may be coming to an end, but if her academic accomplishments at Furman are any indication, Elle will be in the driver’s seat to meet job opportunities head on, and propel her career forward.
UPDATE: Shortly after graduation, Elle was hired as a Human Resources Representative at BMW where she currently works full time.