When it comes to earning a degree, the journey is different for everyone – hastened by urgency or hindered by circumstances, accomplished at a swift run or a winding stroll.
For Dottie Curyto, that journey took more than 40 years – juggling the joys and obligations of family and career along the way.
She started at Broome Community College – as the name was then – back in 1978. Soon after, she met her husband, tied the knot in January 1981 and began working full-time.
“Life just happened,” she remembered. “We only had one car and my husband is a union carpenter, so he needed it. I tried going at night, but then I had a baby in 1983. It kind of got away from me.”
After spending two years at BlueCross BlueShield, she started at Security Mutual in 1981 and stayed for 37 years, mostly in the disability claims area. Supervisors changed through the years and, recently, so did her employer: Security Mutual sold the division, and Dottie found herself under new management.
The changes inspired her to return to SUNY Broome in 2016 and finish that accounting degree she had long set aside. Of course, there have been some changes to the enrollment process since 1978.
“They had to get my records off the microfiche,” she remembered.
Life, of course, has a habit of intervening. Due to some health challenges along the way, she finished in three years rather than two, earning her Accounting degree in May 2019.
During her first semester back, she found herself in a course called “The Freshman Experience” that was initially daunting, but she forged connections with students of all ages. “I met some nice gals and guys in the class,” she said.
She ended up retaking the accounting courses from her initial go at college, and earned higher grades the second time around. One early obstacle: Learning to navigate the new technologies that are now part of so many courses. Dottie’s son and daughter helped her conquer the computer, and she even took some accounting classes online; she found that she enjoyed the flexibility that online classes offer.
“It was a kind of scary at first, but after you do it, it’s not really that hard,” she reflected. “It’s really convenient. You can go home, log onto your computer and do your work.”
She found her professors to be helpful, accessible guides along her path. Favorite professors included Patrick O’Bryan in accounting, Gian Roma in business and Martin Guzzi, also the college’s director of enrollment services, who taught microeconomics and the freshman experience.
A course in Excel spreadsheets proved beneficial to her current job, and a course in forensics sparked her interest. Challenging courses not only taught the subject matter at hand, but inspired her confidence.
“Statistics really worked my brain, but I’m proud! My nephew got a C and I got a B,” she said.
She’s unsure what future path she will take, but having a college degree gives her additional options.
“There are a lot of things to think about,” she said.