GSU Double alum: It's never too late to pursue your dreams
Graduate Profile: Jeanine Latrice Koger
Just two years ago, Jeanine Latrice Koger earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Governors State University (GSU), nearly 30 years after graduating high school, and this spring she will graduate with her Master of Social Work (MSW) in pursuit of her dream to counsel veterans. Koger, a veteran herself, served in the United States Army immediately after high school. Then after being honorably discharged, she decided to enter the work force. It wasn't until years later that she decided to continue her education.
During her tenure at GSU, Koger took a chance on every opportunity she could. From serving as Treasurer of the Black Student Union to her current position as a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Leadership Committee Member, Koger looks forward to graduation and feels confident that GSU has equipped her with the skills to succeed wherever she goes.
GSU Newsroom: How did you choose GSU?
Koger: I chose to further my education at GSU, quite honestly, because I was awarded the Full academic scholarship from the Dual Degree Honors Program (DDP) in 2019 after graduating Summa Cum Laude with the resident's Award from Prairie State College.
GSU Newsroom: What clubs or organizations were you affiliated with? What were some of your favorite memories from them?
Koger: The Black Student Union (BSU) was one of my favorite positions. I searched for BSU during my first semester, but they were defunct. The next semester I saw a meeting was being held. I ran for a seat on the Executive Board and won. I was elected Treasurer. In 2019, GSU was a Professional Development Institute (PDI); I searched out Black History classes (which we did not have), Black sororities, and Black student organizations because, as a social activist, these components would be integral to my college experience. My favorite memory was a forum we held on sexual assault. After the event, two students disclosed that they were survivors, and we were able to direct them to on-campus student counseling. We informed and helped our GSU family.
GSU Newsroom: What are your top GSU experiences and why?
Koger: In my capacity as the Ask Every Student (AES) Project Research assistant, I worked closely with Dr. Crystal Harris and others during the Student Learn, Student Vote campaign on campus. I helped and initiated voter education and engagement at Prairie Place, on campus, and in the nearby community. I have been a deputy registrar for almost two decades. In 2014, I was awarded President Obama's Call to Service Award for single-handedly registering over 200 individuals all over Illinois. This type of work is my calling!
My 2020 Kia Sorento was stolen on October 26, 2022, the same day we planned our Vote Early Day civic engagement. I refused to allow anything to stop me. I took an Uber to campus and met my obligations. Our effort allowed GSU to become nationally recognized as the “2022 Most Engaged Campus for College Student Voting!”
GSU Newsroom: What are your dreams or plans for your degree and life beyond GSU?
Koger: My plans for my degree and life after GSU are still not concrete. I am unsure if I will continue my pursuit for academic excellence or accept one of the positions I have been offered. Nevertheless, I am confident that GSU has undeniably prepared me for success, whichever path I choose.
GSU Newsroom: How did GSU help you achieve your dream?
Koger: GSU has played a pivotal role in helping me achieve my dream. After I received an honorable discharge from the United States Army, I planned to attend college. However, it has been said, "If you want to make God laugh, tell Him about your plans." Before I left for the military in 1990, I applied to work at the United States Postal Service (USPS), Chicago Police Department, and the Social Security Administration. The United States Postal Service mailed me a job offer upon returning to Chicago. My mother hid the letter because she was convinced I would not attend college if I began working for the Postal Service; she was correct.
The USPS employed me for 25 years before I was forced to take a disability retirement. I was not ready for retirement, so I inquired about employment at Pillars Community Health, where I volunteered at in the past. I was informed that I needed a college degree. I was afraid to enter academia, as it had been 28 years since I graduated high school. I enrolled at Prairie State College, and I excelled! I was content with my Associate's degree but was awarded the Dual Degree Honors scholarship to GSU to obtain my bachelor's degree.
Earning a bachelor's degree in Psychology and a master's degree in Social Work will allow me to fulfill my ultimate dream of counseling veterans. I don't know that I will ever be able to repay the debt that I owe to GSU professors, deans, provosts, and President Green. Dr. Robert Clay, former Dean Williams, Dr. Tim Pedigo, Dr. Vickii Coffey, and senior lecturer Matt Covic poured so much into me; they helped shape the person I have become.
GSU Newsroom: What advice would you give current and/or future GSU students?
Koger: "You're stronger than you realize, and you can accomplish whatever you choose." I returned to school at the age of 46. Six weeks before I graduated with my AA, my best friend died, then my cousin, and three weeks later, my brother, Jay, who lived with me, passed. I considered withdrawing. I was devastated.
Nevertheless, I finished the semester strong! I graduated summa cum laude with a 4.1 GPA and received the President's Award. Additionally, I was awarded the Dual Degree (full-ride) Honors Scholarship to attend GSU.