Passion for science and environment inspires pursuit of second bachelor’s degree

Student Profile

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

Meg Zuercher had nearly finished earning her bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts when she discovered an unexpected passion for science and conservation.

After graduating, Zuercher worked on a variety of conservation and environmental projects, which further fueled her interest. Somewhere along the line, she began to consider the idea of returning to school.

“Science and engineering was the last thing I ever thought of doing when I went to college the first time; in fact, I couldn’t have been less interested in it,” Zuercher says. “I didn’t even know that studying environmental and ecological engineering was an option when I first went to school, but I slowly discovered that I could really love and build a career within this field.”

In 2015, Zuercher transferred to Purdue with about four semesters of applicable credits and several years of work experience under her belt. One of the ways Zuercher learned to navigate her nontraditional student experience was to get involved with Span Plan Nontraditional Services.

Zuercher met with Span Plan staff early in her first semester and learned about the program’s scholarship opportunities, which provided her with another incentive to perform well academically. She has since earned several scholarships to help pay tuition.

Span Plan staff also referred Zuercher to Supplemental Instruction, which offers free, weekly peer-led sessions for many of the challenging courses she took early on. These sessions helped her get a handle on tough course material and prepare for difficult exams.

Zuercher says going back to school after being a working professional was an adjustment at first, but in some ways it’s been easier the second time around.

“It’s a much different experience to do something when you’re 19 compared to when you’re 27,” she says. “Since I transferred my English and humanities credits, my time at Purdue is super concentrated in math, science and engineering courses, and the workload is intense. I take it really seriously, but I couldn’t have done this as a procrastinating student.”

If everything goes according to plan, Zuercher will graduate from Purdue in December of 2017. She’s hoping to pursue internships this summer that will inform her decision on whether to return to the workforce or pursue a master’s degree. Either way, she says the financial support she’s received from Span Plan has broadened her options.

“Once you get used to getting paid for working really hard, it’s a bit of an adjustment to go back to school, which is still tons of work but you’re not getting paid right away,” she says. “That’s why I’m so thankful that Span Plan has been there to help support me financially and provide resources and guidance throughout my time at Purdue.”

For more information on Span Plan or to learn how to become a donor, please visit the Span Plan website.

Written by Andrea Thomas, Communications Director for Student Success Programs, 765-496-3754,

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