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Academic Journey

Graduate student speaker learned to love learning

When she first arrived at Bridgewater State University, Em Sandman, ’19, G’22, wasn’t sure she even wanted to go to college.  

“I wasn’t a great student,” she admits. “I didn’t love being in school, but heard they had a really good, nationally acclaimed cheerleading program, so I came to BSU to cheer.” 

Her mindset began to change once classes started.  

“I got my first A,” she said, “I had never gotten an A before and I thought, this isn’t as bad as I thought.” 

Sandman dove in and along the way developed a love of learning while earning a degree in social work before moving on to obtain a master’s degree in criminal justice.  

She looks to inspire others by sharing her story on the Gillette Stadium stage as this year’s featured graduate student speaker.  

“I never learned to love learning in high school, but because of the opportunities at BSU I realized I’m smart, I’m capable, I’m talented,” she said.  

With new-found confidence and after getting her bachelor’s degree, Sandman was inspired to apply for the BSU master’s in social work program but hit a roadblock. 

“When I didn’t get in, I was heartbroken,” she said. “But I’ve learned that things happen for a reason.” 

Sandman turned inward and thought about things she was good at, like helping others and working with youth. Ultimately, she landed a job working as a part-time high school career counselor. 

Still, she wanted to further her education so explored other graduate programs at BSU.  

After investigating her options, she applied and was accepted into the criminal justice graduate program.  

Old insecurities resurfaced, but with the support of her professors those fears vanished.  

“I was nervous to come back, but once again Bridgewater never disappoints,” Sandman said.  

Around this time, she also started a new adventure – motherhood. She was worried how to make it all work but found that many others were in the same boat.  

“Many graduate students are parents or caregivers, whether that is taking care of a child or a parent,” she said. “There is often more pressure because of this, but student services, the deans and professors are all very supportive.” 

To recognize these students, Sandman came up with the idea of creating a parent-caregiver stole for students to wear during commencement.   

“We recognize so many beautiful identities at graduation, but we weren’t recognizing parents,” she said.  

Not anymore. This year marks the first time the parent-caregiver stole will make its appearance at commencement. 

“Going through school with a child is a different might take you longer, you stay up later, but parents are the strongest superheroes in the world. You just get it done,” Sandman said.  

She isn’t done with BSU just yet: Sandman is returning in the fall to become a triple Bear. She didn’t get in the first time, but the second time around was accepted into Bridgewater’s master’s in social work program.  

“I have unfinished business,” she said.  

And if BSU ever offers a PhD program, she’ll be the first in line to register.  

“My eventual goal is to get a PhD,” she said. “Dr. Sandman has a nice ring to it.”  

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