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Outdoing the odds

Graduating student Morgan Rollins completes her undergraduate degree in two and a half years despite challenges that seemed insurmountable.

By Alix P. ’18

The odds weren’t in her favor: her dad was diagnosed with aggressive cancer; her siblings all transferred out of Texas A&M; and she had to pay her own way through college.

Despite challenges that felt insurmountable, Morgan Rollins is graduating in less than three years with a psychology degree — and she is doing so with a character defined by endurance, a strong source of community, and a liberal arts education that has proved invaluable.

Only a year and a half into her time at college, Rollins was met with world-shattering news: her father had stage-four aggressive cancer. Her out-of-state plans to pursue her Ph.D. immediately changed as she knew her only desire was to support her family in this trial.

The changes proved to be too much to handle on her own — transitioning with the news of her dad’s illness, changing her degree path, and becoming engaged all at the same time. As she shared her burdens with her peers, she was struck by the support she was given, especially the support from her research professor Mindy Bergman.

“What I’ll miss the most about A&M are the irreplaceable relationships students can have with their superiors,” Rollins said. “Professor Bergman treated me not just as another student, but as a person. Her understanding, empathy, and support during a hard time was indispensable to me.”

Even the initial path to college was unfamiliar and unpaved for Rollins. Her two older siblings began their time at Texas A&M but were unable to finish; her dad only had his GED; her mom went back to college when Rollins was a teen and took one class at a time. Rollins knew she would attend university; the only question was how.

“I had no idea how to navigate college,” she said. “There were no examples or resources of what it looked like to successfully navigate A&M, so I had to learn on my own.”

Rollins standing next to poster for undergraduate research

Rollins supporting undergraduate research

Rollins’ whole family doubted her ability to break the mold left by her siblings, constantly asking if she would actually be able to stick it out at A&M. But Rollins saw the value of her education, and defied the odds.

“My liberal arts education gave me the chance to branch out and explore different interests. I feel more versatile and malleable as a future employee, and have a willingness to learn about anything because of it,” Rollins said.

In another display of selflessness, Rollins worked nearly 40 hours every week for two families with Autistic children in order to pay for her education. Though a challenging and humbling time, she persisted and was met with great reward — seeing her father enter into remission, and graduating early with no student debt.

Rollins continued on despite every adversity thrown her way, and is graduating with what she came for — an education that would equip her to work with people and provide help for people in human resources — and so much more. Because of her time here, the Aggie core values infused her life with determination and excellence in all things.

Even when the odds grew stacked against her, it was community that helped her through. After all, Rollins said, “an Aggie is always gonna be there to help another Aggie.”