KOKOMO, Ind. – A second chance can make a world of difference.
As she prepares to graduate from Indiana University Kokomo in May, Jean Redfern looks forward to her future career as a network administrator — made possible by the hard work she put in to make the most of her second chance to earn a degree.
“I’m proud of myself,” she said. “I can look back on the bad parts, and the progress in between, and where I am now. It’s all been about next steps and how to work toward being better, making myself more disciplined, and learning to succeed on my own.”
She’s overcome many challenges to get to this point. Born in Thailand, Redfern moved to Kenosha, Wisconsin, with her mother at age 8, speaking little English. However, she picked up the language quickly in public school. They moved to Kokomo when she was in 7th grade, and she moved out on her own and enrolled at IU Kokomo shortly after graduating from high school.
Between working to support herself, and influenced by friends who didn’t take school seriously, Redfern drifted, rarely studying and frequently missing classes. Being dismissed from the university was the wake-up call she needed.
She enrolled in community college to earn credits and establish a high enough grade point average to petition for readmission.
“It was a big pivotal moment, a slap in the face,” Redfern said. “There was a lot I had to do to come back. I didn’t want to make the same mistakes again. I knew it was completely my fault. I completely turned my academic progress around, and I didn’t want to mess up any more.”
This time, she surrounded herself with positive influences, joining the Women in Technology club and informatics club, which she later served as president. She also competed in cybersecurity challenges.
Her hard work paid off, as she earned chancellor’s list honors for having a 4.0 grade point average.
“I’m proud of how far I’ve come,” she said.
Redfern initially thought she might like a career in cybersecurity, and researched with Hong Liu, assistant professor of computer science; and Chen Zhong, former assistant professor of informatics, analyzing what students learn from feedback during cybersecurity competition. She presented their research at the campus Undergraduate Research Conference.
Liu was impressed by Redfern’s performance in the classroom, lab, and the Women in Technology club.
“Jean stood out as a brilliant, diligent, and intelligent student.,” she said. “I am impressed by her great performance in every exam, class exercise, and homework assignment. She showed up to every class session, quickly grasped the concepts and ideas, and asked thoughtful questions in and after class. She had a strong appetite for learning informatics and computer science knowledge and was committed to continuous learning.”
Later, Redfern was selected for the Gerald L. Bepko Internship in IU Kokomo’s UITS department, which led to a job as a student web technician.
“I feel like I finally have done what I was working towards,” she said. “Even when I was a freshman, I always wanted to work in UITS, to build my resume and skills. Now seeing how I’ve created such good relationships with the people I looked up to, I feel very accomplished.”
She’s especially proud that she’s supported herself financially while earning her degree, working long hours at area restaurants and at a local hotel, sometimes holding three jobs at the same time. Knowing the challenges she faced early on at IU Kokomo makes her success that much sweeter.
“At the time it was happening, I just felt very defeated,” she said. “I felt very ashamed I got to that point. All I wanted to focus on what was the next step, and what was I going to do next. I’m so close to the finish line now, and to the good future I want for myself.”