By VICKY SANTOS
Published May 18, 2023
Balancing a job, classes and a serious relationship, American studies major Esmedelin Sippel did her best to graduate in 1999 but fell a little short on her GPA.
“I wasn't ready. I didn’t have the right focus,” Sippel says.
She had been taking classes at both UB and Buffalo State University since 1994.
"Academically, I kept going back and forth. I was not great at it, but when I finally did get all my credits I said, ‘OK, I’m graduating and finally doing this,’” Sippel recalls.
While her overall GPA was a 2.0, her UB GPA was just under a 2.0, which meant she couldn’t officially graduate from UB. When she found out, she was disappointed.
“My mom bought me this ring for graduation back in 1999. When the graduation auditor called and said that I have the credits but not the GPA to graduate, I put the ring in my jewelry box, and I did not wear it because I did not earn it. I just refused to wear it,” Sippel says.
She was allowed to walk for graduation and her plan was to come back over the summer to finish up, officially. But with working a full-time job and making plans with her to soon-to-be husband, summer came and went, and Sippel was unable to fulfill her promise to herself.
“I kept trying to figure out ways to make it happen, but I always had something else come up that made me put it off,” she says.
Over the years, Sippel gave birth to two daughters and move around for work and other family obligations, but she never lost track of her UB class ring and her commitment to finish the degree she started.
“Every time I opened my jewelry box, the ring was there, just staring at me, and I would say, ‘One day, I will deserve you. One day, I’ll wear you with pride.’”
When life brought her and her family back to Western New York a few years ago, Sippel decided to enroll and finish her degree. Coming back to school now really isn’t any easier for Sippel in terms of availability — if anything, her schedule is more demanding than it was in that summer of 1999. Her daughters are teens and involved in sports and other school activities. She’s recently overcome medical and marital issues, and she volunteers as the track and field coach at her daughters’ school. So, what made her decide to go back now?
“I knew that I needed to do this and show my daughters that no matter what happens, you’ve got to get up and you’ve got to continue. I wanted them to see that it’s never too late to do the right thing.”
And while Sippel’s decision to come back and finish her bachelor’s degree was hers alone to make, she has not felt alone on the journey.
“The amount of support that I have received from UB has been overwhelming,” she notes. “And the Department of Africana and American Studies has really embraced me. They have helped me and taken my hand to lead me through this, and I don’t want to stop. I want to keep going. I don’t want to give up that support system. I’ve gathered this momentum now, and I just love it here. I don’t know how else to describe it.”
In the days leading up to commencement, Sippel is wearing her ring with pride, knowing that she will finally be an official UB alum.