Walz Commencement April 2023
Mother and daughter Michelle and Jaden Walz smile at each other outside the Stroh Center on their joint graduation day, April 29. (BGSU photo/Craig Bell)

Class of 2023: Mother-daughter tandem earns BGSU degrees on same day

Jaden and Michelle Walz lean on each other during process of earning undergraduate degrees from BGSU

As a nontraditional student, Michelle Walz experienced quite a few new things while studying at Bowling Green State University.

As she earned her bachelor's in Allied Health — a 100% online program offered through the BGSU eCampus — she was no longer the one making sure her four children were on top of their schoolwork, but rather going back to school herself to complete a lifelong goal of earning a bachelor’s degree.

“I wasn’t the one talking about what they have to do for school, but here I was turning down dinner plans with family members or my husband because I had something due,” she said. “I really leaned on my kids in a role reversal where I was the student.”

The timing couldn’t have been more perfect for the Walz family: As Michelle earned a degree from BGSU, she shared graduation day with her youngest child.

Commencement Spring 2023
Mom Michelle Walz, left, and daughter Jaden Walz hold up their diploma covers after graduating together on Saturday, April 28.

Jaden, a setter on the BGSU volleyball team who helped the Falcons to two NCAA Tournament appearances during her college career, essentially grew up on campus. Older brothers Jack and Jakob both attended the University, and Jaden also had the chance to be volleyball teammates with her older sister, Julia.

As Jaden earned a bachelor’s in Human Development and Family Studies, she was also a resource for Michelle as her mom chose to go back to school.

“I loved going to school with Julia and getting that experience, but with my mom, I almost felt like the parent,” Jaden said. “I was teaching her how to use Canvas, how to turn in assignments and how to use APA again.

“It was funny because I would call home and tell her that I was working on a paper, she would say, ‘Oh, me too. It’s due at 11:59.’ And I would say, ‘You know how we feel about that.’”

Michelle earned an associate degree once Jaden went to school, but said she had always wanted to earn a bachelor’s degree at some point as well.

“I went to get my associate degree when Jaden went to kindergarten, so I would be mom all day and take classes at night,” she said. “When I walked at graduation, all four kids were in the stands, and that was big for me. But the bachelor’s degree was always a box I wanted to check and to be able to say that I did it.”

Commencement Spring 2023
Michelle Walz shakes hands with Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs Dr. Joe B. Whitehead Jr.
Commencement Spring 2023
Jade Walz shakes hands with Dean Dawn Shinew of the College of Education and Human Development. (BGSU photos/Craig Bell)

Trying asynchronous learning through an online degree program was a new experience for Michelle, but she had the support of her children.

When the pandemic closed campus, the Walz family had each other as sources of encouragement.

“I had to really carve out time, and it was hard for me at times to sit there and get everything done, but I leaned on them quite a bit,” Michelle said. “That was where time management during COVID was very important. I had just started, they were all sent home and campus was closed, so we’d all go to our separate rooms and do homework.

“I thought, ‘If they can do it, I’m going to have to do it, too.’”

Though graduating college with a parent is certainly unique, Jaden said earning a degree on the same day as her mom is something she will always cherish.

“Every time I think about it, I get a little bit emotional,” she said. “I remember at the beginning when we were going through this, she said, ‘I don’t want to take away from your day.’ But for me, she is who brought me into this world.

“Having it all come full circle and being able to share that experience with her is something I’ll never forget. That’s very special to me.”

Walz Commencement April 2023
MIchelle Walz, left, and her youngest daughter Jaden shared their graduation day together. (BGSU photo/Craig Bell)

Related Stories

Media Contact | Michael Bratton | mbratto@bgsu.edu | 419-372-6349

Updated: 09/08/2023 11:58AM