Better With Age: Jerri Mann
This article is part of Generation Georgia State, a series that highlights the academic, personal and career accomplishments of Georgia State students, alumni, faculty and staff who are the first in their families to attend college.
At 50, Jerri Mann is the oldest student in the classroom. She has children the same age as her fellow students, but she doesn’t let that intimidate her.
“It’s never too late to do what you want to do,” she said.
Jerri speaks with a smile and laughs easily, but her path to Georgia State University was a difficult one. With a successful career as a paralegal, she might never have returned to college if her mother hadn’t fallen ill.
“My mother was diagnosed with cancer,” said Jerri, “and she made me promise I’d go back to school and get my degree.”
Jerri agreed and was accepted at Georgia State, but she worried about the age difference between herself and her classmates.
“I have kids in college,” she said. “I didn’t want my classmates to think of me as ‘the old lady.’”
As soon as classes started, however, she felt right at home.
“The students treat me like one of their own,” she said. “It’s been such a wonderful experience.”
Jerri’s professors have all been very impressed with her work.
“Having Jerri in class in kind of like having a friend in class,” said Colleen McEdwards, professor of journalism. “She has so much to contribute, not only because of her experience and intelligence, but just because of who she is. She’s so open.”
McEdwards said that Jerri’s age has been a benefit.
“She has so much real-world experience. Age and experience can actually be very valuable, and I think it really sends a powerful message to younger students: that age is not a bad thing.”
Though Jerri originally chose Georgia State because of its location, she now feels like it’s her home.
“I’ve been so impressed by the resources and support here. It’s such a wonderful environment.”
She’s also found that going back to college has helped her connect with her own children.
“When I call them, we talk about projects and studying for classes. We’re working towards the same goal – but I’m going to graduate first!”
Sadly, Jerri’s mother won’t be around to see her graduate this spring – she passed away before Jerri started classes.
“I know she’d be so proud of me,” said Jerri. “I know she’s looking down on me and cheering me on.”
After graduating, Jerri hopes to finally pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a writer.
“I feel like I can take on the world,” she said. “Even though I’m 50, I know I can do anything I choose. This is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.”