Lois Barth ’12
Lois Barth ’12
Human Development Expert, Motivational Speaker, Coach and Author
Why did you choose Empire State College? What do you think is the best thing about the college?
I dropped out of college decades before going back to get my degree. Going to ESC and completing my degree was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. I ALWAYS knew I would go to ESC because I would find myself drawn to people who had gone back later in life and when I heard how rich and important a part of their life the experience was, they would almost ALWAYS say they attended ESC. They talked about the Adult Learning Model (ALM), the really interesting students that it attracted that had taken a more holographic versus linear approach towards academics. Being a writer, I loved the prior learning assessment (PLA) where you could get credit for all your life learning. I also felt like the teachers treated you like adults, and while had a high standard of education, still understood one’s outside commitments were to be considered. I loved the whole process, the career rationale where you chart out your course of study, the vast amount of services they have. Whatever my challenge was (and there were several throughout) there was always a service to accommodate me. Our dirty little secrets are often inextricably tied to our deep longings, and going back to college was definitely one of them. I found the students really interesting and helpful, and the courses terrific. One of my biggest discoveries was when I “had” to take a history course because my previous one didn’t meet my Gen Ed Requirements, and I had to trade off a course in my major to take it. I was so upset and frustrated. ‘American History before the Civil War, how is that going to help me in my life with my clients goals,’ I whined to a friend. I showed up, with quite frankly, to Dr. Tischler’s class, with a slight chip on my shoulder, only to discovered that the course changed my life. That’s the gift of education, not only what we hope to learn, but also those things that we have no idea we will. Personally I’d recommend to everyone I know who wants to go back to college later in life, to attend SUNY Empire State College. It’s my Alma Mater and I’m proud.
How did Empire State College help you shape your personal and professional goals?
SUNY Empire helped shape both my personal and professional goals by being reminded how much I had already accomplished and didn’t give myself credit for. Having written close to 100 pages in PLA and having to contact colleagues, employers and teachers from the past, only to find them incredibly supportive of what I did was incredibly healing. While I came into ESC already deeply seated on a career path, I truly believe it deepened my learning. I could literally go through each course I had taken and attribute very substantive takeaways. From Organizational Behavior, to CBT, to of course, American History before the Civil War, to Social Psychology, there were distinctions, that I still use in my coaching practice as well as the groups I speak to as a motivational speaker. I was one of the three speakers at the commencement program in 2012 and it was so healing to share my journey with my fellow classmates.
What is your career highlight or proudest career moment to date?
Getting over debilitating stage fright, writer’s block, and relentless self-criticism only to do stand-up comedy, 4 one-woman shows and tour the country as an arts educator, but also teach and motivate others in how to get over their blocks. Writing a book, Courage to SPARKLE: The Audacious Girls’ Guide to Creating A Life that Lights You Up, a go-to guide to champion people to thrive personally and professionally. Use my comedy to go into drug rehabs, eating and co-dependency programs and use humor to heal.
What advice would you give to a current Empire State College student?
Create community, don’t try to do it all yourself. Even if you have only online courses available, create an on-line study group. This process, later in life, can feel daunting, don’t be in isolation. ESC has extraordinary services, take advantage of them. Find out who are in your classes, get to know them. I was committed to get the most out of my education, no matter what! I was a “squeaky wheel” asked for support, took advantage of the services, do the same. Learn how you learn, if writing is daunting for you, whether a handicap or dyslexic, propose a presentation delivery for your papers instead. ESC is there to help you. Don’t give up, but be in dialogue if you feel you’re going to. Whatever the problem, funding, overwhelmed, the staff and team have experienced it before. You’re unique but not that special, in this area. Every challenge you have, I can assure you, they’ve dealt with it. Keep focusing on how extraordinary an accomplishment it will be to have your degree and make it a priority to get a lot out of the process.
Why do you give back to SUNY Empire?
Because it’s never too late to get a great education. It’s never too late to follow your dreams and turn a potential “dirty little secret” (as it was in my case) to a dream come true. I will always donate to ESC. Even a small donation, that you don’t even think twice about, won’t even miss, can make the difference between someone else going to school or not. We must invest in institutions that can rebuild this great (albeit deeply wounded) country, and education is still the best investment in town.
Anything else you would like to share with fellow alumni and students?
I was honored to be the opening keynote at the Fall Conference in November 2017. Every attendee received a copy of my book, Courage to SPARKLE, and in my introduction I speak about the impact going back to college, especially ESC, had on my life. It’s never too late to dream. It’s never too late to make those dreams happen. It’s never too late to get a good education. Sparkle NOW!