We tend to think of college as a place for only 18- to 22-year-olds to plan out their futures, when in fact non-traditional students maintain a significant margin of the college demographic. For Sara Shumaker, her first choice in a discipline was not the right fit. It took one bachelor’s degree, moving to an entire different state and raising a child to determine her niche in life.
Originally from Iowa, Shumaker received a Bachelor’s of Art in English from the University of Northern Iowa. After dabbling around, she made her way south to UCA to receive her master’s in English in 2002.
“I really like this area,” Shumaker said. “I was never an education major and I was scared to teach, but wanting to stay here I decided I wanted to teach as an adjunct at universities.”
Initially working in the writing department, Shumaker added to her workload by taking a stint teaching in the English department and editing an on-campus journal.
After 2010, Shumaker’s life changed because of the birth of her son. She took three years off and then came back to continue teaching as an adjunct. However, the rewards of teaching were soon outweighed by the difficulty of being an adjunct professor.
Realizing that teaching was not her path in life, she decided to challenge herself in a whole new way.
She decided to humor a joke her husband made about signing up for a drawing class. She admits she had a rough start, but with dedication her skills started to develop.
Shumaker found her fit with sculpture and was hooked. She was suddenly trying to calculate how to manage time to work in the early morning and then try to get back to her house in time to get her son ready for daycare and her household running before returning for her afternoon classes.
“I love literature, I love teaching, but I love this too,” Shumaker said. “I think the difference is with this I have the opportunity to be my own boss, as a mother that is really important to me.”
Shumaker ultimately has aspirations to work professionally as an artist.
“I’m in a spot that a lot of students wouldn’t be in,” Shumaker said. “I have a really supportive spouse, I have experiences, and a lot of things that can supplement my income.”
To be a professional artist, Shumaker said that stamina is crucial: that trying and failing is the best way to grow and succeed. Shumaker said she misses teaching and her students, but making her own hours is so substantial to her life.
Shumaker said she believes in people being as well-rounded as possible. She encourages people to find what gets them going whether it is running, making art, or reading; then to balance that with a hearty home life.
“Be curious about everything,” Shumaker said “Choose the things you put time into carefully.”
Shumaker remarks on the way that being too absorbed in books, while it feels safe, was not the way she was going to live her life. She found the courage to transform herself into the character she wanted to be, finding her voice, and writing her own story.
This article originally appeared in the Feb. 24, 2016 print edition of The Echo.