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Meet Wendy Hansard

Wendy Hansard had only been in East Tennessee for a few months when she transferred to ETSU to continue working toward the degree she had put on hold through several moves and raising a family. During all that time, she never lost her passion for science and chemistry.  Her studies in chemistry and secondary education combine her love for science with her love of children and teaching.  Hansard, who was the inaugural recipient of the ETSU Department of Chemistry’s Dr. Richard W. Kopp Chemistry Education Scholarship in the spring of 2019, is currently doing her student teaching at Johnson City’s Science Hill High School.  After graduating in May 2020, she hopes to begin her teaching career in a local high school, and does not anticipate moving away as she and her family have found that they love living in East Tennessee.  In her spare time, Hansard enjoys cooking, which she approaches like a chemist instead of following recipes exactly, thinking of how the ingredients could be adjusted to work better together, as well as gardening, hiking and camping. 

My college education began just like most; I began attending college right after my high school graduation. I had my heart set on becoming a veterinarian. When I found out that I had a tendency to pass out at the sight of blood, I wasn’t sure what my major would be. I have always had a love of science, and after taking several courses in biology, physics, and chemistry I knew that chemistry was the one that I was the most passionate about. I switched my major to biochemistry and focused on research.

It wasn’t long after this transition that I got married. My husband had just recently earned his degree in mechanical engineering, and as part of his job we were going to be moving around once a year for a few years. I had one and a half years until I earned my bachelor’s and decided to continue my education in the areas where we lived. We ended up living in smaller cities that were located far from any university where I could complete my degree. This turned out to be an unexpected blessing. My husband and I wanted to start a family, and this was a perfect time to do that.

We moved six times in an 11-year period, during which time we had four children. Our latest move had landed us in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and when our youngest child was about to turn five and start attending kindergarten, my thoughts turned to what I planned on doing with my time. I had been very blessed to be able to stay at home with my children while they were young, but now I had a chance to focus on my own personal growth.

Wendy Hansard pictured in ETSU Chemistry labAfter talking it over with my husband, we decided that I would return to college and pursue a degree. At this point, I had been out of school for over fifteen years, but I was ready to dive back in and earn my bachelor’s degree. I had been teaching the youth in our church and loved the experience that gave me. I decided that because of my love of chemistry and how much I enjoyed being around children I would change my major from biochemical research to a chemistry teacher in secondary education.

I returned to school, taking courses in Wyoming to pursue my degree. I was approaching my final years as I had one year left at the University of Wyoming before I had achieved my goal, when, once again, my family moved. This time we moved far from the familiarity of the West. We moved to Johnson City, Tennessee. Not wanting to wait another 15 years until I returned to school, I contacted East Tennessee State University to find out how to become a transfer student.

I was so pleased with all of the assistance that I received. I was able to start school the spring semester after we moved to Tennessee. Due to the differing requirements between the universities, instead of graduating in one year, I found out that it would take me an extra year to graduate from ETSU. Far from this being a hindrance, I have found that the extra courses in both my chemistry major and secondary education minor enhanced my learning and helped me feel more prepared for my future.

The advice I would give to others who are thinking about going back to school after a long time is just do it. Just go back. It’s not a big deal. There is an age difference, but nobody cares that you’re older than they are. You’re just another student. I was worried when I first came back to school that the younger students would think, “Oh, she’s so old.” I’ve actually found that most students see me as being more reliable in groups and as somebody who may have a little advice to help them. Some of them even call me Mama Hansard! It’s fine, and it’s where I am in my life.  If you have the opportunity to come back, come back to school and get your degree. It can be done!


NOTE: The week of Nov. 4-10, 2019, is Nontraditional Student Week, a national observance that recognizes the efforts of adult students working to earn a college education and calls attention to campus programs and events designed to support and help these students reach their goals.  For more information, contact ETSU’s Office of Adult, Commuter and Transfer Services at 423-439-5641 or

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