'I've found that in every class I'm the youngest one.'

Photo by Candace diCarlo


Administrative Assistant, Graduate Division, School of Arts and Sciences
Length of service:
6 years
Other stuff:
Who has time for other stuff?

In today's economy, it's hard to find good jobs with potential for advancement without a bachelor's degree. Which makes Marquita Williams one lucky young woman. Williams landed a support-staff job in the Legal Studies Department of Penn's Wharton School fresh out of Bartram High School's business magnet program. And, thanks to an astute professor and Penn's tuition benefit for staff, she's on her way to getting that bachelor's degree.

Meanwhile, the South Philly native has her hands full with her three-year-old son Marquise, who played with his toy trucks while we talked about how she got where she is now and how she juggles her responsibilities.

Q. How did you get hired at Wharton in the first place?
I went to Bartram Business Magnet Program, and from there I entered the co-op program, where you worked half a day and went to school half a day, and then once I graduated, I worked in the Legal Studies department [at Wharton] for about six months, and then after that they hired me full-time in the undergraduate office.

Q. So was your work in Legal Studies an internship?
No. You would go to school until 12 o'clock, then I would work at Wharton from 1 to 4, just to help out with filing, typing, coverage for the office. So it wasn't an internship. I mean, we got paid, but it wasn't an internship.

Q. Was this program running only at Penn?
No. They sent half of us to Penn, some of us went to law firms, and then the rest of us to college.

Q. But you're in college yourself now, right? Studying what and where?
In the Wharton Evening School. Right now, I'm working towards my associate's degree, and then I'll continue on to my bachelor's. I'm doing all my basic requirements, but then I'm thinking about accounting and management.

Q. And you attend courses how many nights a week?
I usually go once a week from 6:30 to 9:10. In the summer, I was here twice a week, Monday and Wednesday.

Q. Did you enroll for classes right away once you came to Penn?
No. When I first started in the undergraduate office, one of the Evening School directors asked, "Marquita, are you taking classes?" I said no. He registered me and put me into his class, Introduction to Marketing, and I liked it, and from there I just continued on.

Q. What do you think about your classmates in Wharton Evening?
I've found that in every class I'm the youngest one. Most nearly everyone in the class are managers, supervisors; it's like they've already raised their family and then they're coming back to school, or maybe their jobs wanted them to learn more of a subject.
   I also have a [study] partner, his name is Charles Price. I used to work with him in the undergraduate office. We take the same classes and we help each other out. He's older -- he retired in 1994 and when I came back from maternity leave, he was there. We were on the same level, Administrative Assistant I, and I said, I'm taking these classes, do you want to take some with me? And he said, Yeah, I'll take some with you, so we've been taking the same thing for the past three years. He's been a big help.

Q. Are you planing on trying to get a job at Penn or somewhere else that might be more closely related to accounting?
Once I'm done, yes. Right now, I like doing the administrative work, but later on I think I'll go into budget work or finance. In Wharton, I was responsible for tuition, billing, debit/credit, everything on the SRS [Student Records System], but here [in the SAS Graduate Division] there's not that much interaction with the tuition system -- you just see what was already billed, you're not going in and actually making the transactions.

Q. How do you manage your classes, your work and raising Marquise?
It's hard. I get a lot of help from my family and his father. We would juggle it where he would get picked up from school, and then once I'd come home, I would get him -- you know, cook, clean, do homework, study -- so it is a lot to juggle. I have to have a strict schedule. I know my day's for class, I know the weekend's study, and sometimes I have to go to the library because I can't concentrate at home with the TV on and playing. Between my family and his father, that really helps me out a lot.

Q. Is Marquise in preschool yet?
He's in daycare, in what they call Preschool 1. When he turns four, he'll be in Preschool 2, then Preschool 3, then pre-K and then kindergarten.

Q. (to Marquise) Are you looking forward to real school?
(shakes head no)
A. (from Marquita) I can't wait until he gets into real school.

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Originally published on September 3, 1998