August 2020

A graduation 30-plus years in the making

By Matt Schnepf


Monica Bryant-Chapman (BS Industrial Engineering Technology ’20) believes in finishing what she starts, something that motivated her to finally complete the college education she began 36 years ago.

When Chapman, from Indianapolis, first arrived at Purdue University in 1984, she intended to study engineering. After her freshman year, however, she switched her major to industrial engineering technology.  “I could potentially do some of the same things with that degree that I wanted to do through engineering, but in a supervisory industrial role,” Chapman says.  

Active both on and off campus, she worked at a local Paul Harris clothing store while enrolled in school, eventually pausing her education temporarily to become assistant manager at one of the retailer’s Illinois locations. At the time, she planned to complete her degree at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

“I had senior credits by the summer of 1991 when I returned home, and my plan was to finish at IUPUI,” Chapman says. “But when it’s summer and you’re young, you aren’t necessarily focused on classes.”

Shortly thereafter, she met her future husband, Darrell. The couple moved to California in 1994, returning to Indianapolis years later when two of their children, Deuce and Maxine, enrolled in separate colleges back east. Their youngest child, William, is now a sophomore at Purdue and a member of the football team. 

“Over the years, I always wanted to complete my degree,” she says. “I even looked into finishing out in California, but it can be hard to match up credits in a different state and school.”

When Chapman returned to Indiana, she discovered her best option might be taking classes at a community college, which could take two years to complete. By 2018, however, William was visiting Purdue himself, looking to study and play football in West Lafayette. His collegiate journey ultimately led his mother back to the classroom. 

“At an admissions event, we sat at a table with Exploratory Studies, William’s area of study, and met Scott Vana, one of the advisors,” Chapman says. “I told him my story, and he said, ‘You have to finish. I’m going to find the people to help you get this done.’” 

And that’s exactly what he did. After reviewing Chapman’s Purdue transcript, plus the additional courses she took at IUPUI, Lindsay Ann Haugland in the Purdue Polytechnic Institute concluded that Chapman needed just three classes to finish her degree. Chapman then made up her mind to finish all three courses in spring 2020, balancing her full-time career as a regional sales manager for Grinds Coffee Pouches, a healthy alternative to chewing tobacco, with her college studies. And although she had to complete most of her coursework remotely due to the COVID-19 outbreak, that reality didn’t diminish her joy of graduating.   

“One thing I’ve taught my kids is that if we start something, we’re going to finish. They’re so proud that Mom stuck to it and never gave up,” Chapman says. “I give Mr. Vana so much credit, and the students in my classes taught me a lot. I hope I was able to support and inspire them as well.”

Chapman also is extremely proud to share the Purdue connection with one of her children. “William is a Boiler through and through. He’s happy with his decision and is enjoying the college experience,” she says.

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