Being a mother is a full-time job, and no one knows that better than Lynne Ryan of Maidsville, a mother of four, working professional and recent graduate of West Virginia University. Thirty-seven years after her first attempt at college, she recently received her Regents Bachelor of Arts (RBA) degree, with an emphasis in womens studies, alongside her son, Jeff Muster, and daughter, Samantha Muster.

Just like other college students, she worked hard, ran on coffee and sometimes procrastinated, but she always pushed herself to do well and improve her skills,said Jeff, who described his mother as being independent, creative and full of energy.She has really grown, and our family is so proud of her.

Ryan attended Drew University in New Jersey in 1971, but did not finish her degree. Instead, she started a family and was a devoted mother of four. She has always been proud of her family, but felt that a part of her life was unfinished.

She tried returning to school twice. In 1991, she attempted college when her children were still young, but attending one class a semester for three terms was still too much to juggle. In 2001, she learned that her previous credits could be transferred to WVU and determined the RBA degree would be the best program for her. Again, she enrolled in only one night class a semester, this time as a divorced, single parent working three jobs. After seven years, she completed the program.

The RBA degree gave Ryan the freedom to build her own program and take coursework that met her needs. Her emphasis in womens studies benefited her current position as a full-time lactation consultant at the Monongalia County Health Department in the West Virginia Woman, Infants and Children program.

I love helping families get off to a good start,Ryan said.I spent most of my life mothering, and I feel I can pass on valuable skills to other women.

Terrified of computers, she took an introductory computer science course when it wasnt required. She said it was her hardest class. She also took courses in womens studies, public health and dance, as well as communications with her son and movie appreciation with her daughter. A champion triathlete, Ryan loves to run and bike, and she and Samantha even took a triathlon course to prepare for a race together.

It was fun having class with her because we could help and encourage each other,Samantha said.I couldnt be more excited for her.

Ryans passion to help children inspired her kids to seek careers that would do the same. Jeff received his masters degree in secondary education and just finished student teaching in local public schools and at the Morgantown Community Arts program, where he taught theater to 8 and 9-year-olds. Samantha received an RBA degree with an emphasis in nutrition and child development. During her studies, she sought her mothers help in developing lesson plans for WVU s nursery school. She plans to attend graduate school and become a teacher or student counselor.

Outside of work, Ryan continues to be an advocate for women and children. She is a representative for the Council for Womens Concerns at WVU and serves on the committee to build the new WVU child care center. As a domestic violence survivor, she uses her personal experiences to reach out to others and speaks about gender and violence each semester for the Silent Witness program. She also visits the Hazelton Secure Womens Facility in Preston County to counsel inmates and help them share their stories with at-risk youth.

This is my biggest accomplishment,Ryan said.I completed my goal and finished the unfinished. It didnt come easy, but after 37 years of hard work, failed attempts and dedication, I did it.

The RBA program at WVU provides a flexible, individualized academic program that fits the needs of nontraditional undergraduates. Students earn credit through various outlets, gain a general education and design their own program of study to fit their needs and interests. The program is offered through the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences.

For more information, contact director Carol Hando at 304-293-5441 ext. 4 or .