KOKOMO, Ind. — When Mikaela Marcus first enrolled at Indiana University Kokomo, she challenged herself to graduate in three years or less.
The fact she graduated in two and a half years would be remarkable enough — but when you know she is also legally blind, has a connective tissue disorder, and other health concerns, her accomplishment is even more impressive.
“I pushed myself a lot, and that really helped me to grow as a person,” said Marcus, who was raised in Frankfort and now lives in Kokomo. “The most rewarding part was just how much I learned about myself and about what I could do.”
She felt a sense of urgency to earn her degree, she said.
“I was concerned about my health getting worse, so I wanted to graduate before it progressed too much,” Marcus said, adding that she also is ready to go on to graduate school.
She didn’t choose an easy route either — in December she completed a Bachelor of General Studies, with a double concentration in math and science, and arts and humanities. She also earned minors in international studies, music, and history.
To accomplish all of this in such a short time, she took 18 to 20 credit hours each semester and enrolled in summer classes. Succeeding with that kind of class load required a lot of planning ahead on her part to ensure self-care at the same time.
“I had to be really proactive,” she said. “I had to think about what accommodations I might need in classes ahead of time, and what I might need for specific assignments so I was ready to start and not get behind,” she said. “I also had to pace myself because of my connective tissue disorder because I get fatigued.”
Marcus didn’t let her demanding class schedule get in the way of having a student life experience as well. Her involvement includes being a student government senator, a member of Phi Sigma Sigma sorority, the Cougar Choir and Harmonics, Student Union Board, Student Athletics and Wellness Board, the English club, and a role in a musical.
All of this meant very full days, but she’s glad to have had the experience, noting that she was home schooled for her last three years of high school.
“Being in all the clubs gave me more confidence with people and helped me learn what I like outside of academics,” she said. “If I hadn’t been involved, I wouldn’t have met so many people and made so many friends and grown as much.”
One of her favorite experiences was traveling with a class to South Korea for two weeks, adding that she hopes to go back again.
Marcus is taking this semester off from going to school, so she can research programs and decide which of her many interests to follow.
“I’m not sure on a career field yet. I have a lot of different options, because I did such a variety of things while I was here,” she said. “I didn’t want to jump right into graduate school, so I will plan on that for this fall.”