Nancy Meyer

Hometown: Fort Wayne, Ind.
Major: Pursuing a doctoral degree in special education, specializing in mild disabilities.

Her inspirational Purdue woman: Sydney Zentall, professor of educational studies.

Not your traditional student: Meyer earned a bachelor's degree in special education from Purdue in 1976 and a master's degree from Pittsburg State University in 1981. She met her husband of 33 years, Tim, at Purdue (he's an alumnus of the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management) and is the mother of Melissa, a Purdue civil engineering alumna, and Matthew, who earned a business degree from Penn State. She taught special ed for 20 years around the country. "I feel like I'm the same age as when I went here, I just look different!," Meyer says.

Back home in Indiana: After having spent several years in Sugarland, Texas, Meyer and her husband moved back to West Lafayette. In order to teach special ed in Indiana, she needed to take some courses to become certified in the state, so she enrolled in classes at Purdue.

So why don't you stay awhile? One of the courses Meyer enrolled in was taught by Zentall, an expert on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. "Dr. Zentall is an incredibly accomplished, respected expert on ADHD, and this class changed the way I looked at my students. Finally, Dr. Zentall asked me, 'Why aren't you in the (Ph.D.) program?' I said, 'I can't do that,' but she said, 'Yes, you can,' and she encouraged me to enroll in the Ph.D. program. I was really scared when I did it. It's a leap of faith."

The right approach: Meyer says that although Zentall's very successful career keeps her busy, she makes time for her students. "She keeps me moving along in my research. The great thing about her is that she knows how to approach different people in different ways according to what works best with their personalities. She knows how to get through to you."

Full circle: After Meyer earns her doctorate, she plans to become a professor. "I want to teach teachers who want to become special ed teachers, hopefully inspiring students like Dr. Zentall has inspired me. I want to pass it on."

By Kim Delker