Fabian balances books and the ‘fabulous opportunity of motherhood’

Susan Fabian with her daughters Grace (left) and Jane

Susan Fabian with her daughters Grace (left) and Jane

Susan Fabian is an outstanding college student, a scholarship winner and an active volunteer. But ask her what her best accomplishment is and she’ll tell you it’s ‘Being a mom.’

You’ll find Fabian, 32, on the sidelines at her children’s swim and gymnastics lessons, peeking up from her academic books every few minutes to wave and smile at her two girls, Grace and Jane.

They’re the same books she reads intently long into the night until she nods off still holding pages in her hands after a day of classes at UW-La Crosse, working part-time and taking care of her kids.

“I sleep very little,” she notes. “I maximize my education.”

Somehow she manages to do even more than that. In addition to a 3.75 G.P.A. with a major in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies and minors in ethnic and racial studies, and sociology, Fabian is an active volunteer for community programs; a teaching assistant and board member for the Self Sufficiency Program; a member of the Native American Student Association and recipient of four UW-L Foundation scholarships this year. In early June, she was selected to go to the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders hosted by the American Association of University Women in Washington, D.C.

She says when she takes opportunities like these, she finds more appear in her life and that engagement, ultimately, helps her grow as a leader — as someone who can help others find opportunity too. For instance, as single parent using every resource she can to pay her way through college, she knows all about applying for financial aid and has helped others through the complex process. She’s the first in her family to go to college and has navigated through campus resources and can now help others find them.

But she feels more can be done to support student parents. That’s why she started a Student Parent Community in fall 2010, an effort to unite student parents from UW-L, Viterbo University and Western Technical College for networking and collaborative problem solving so they don’t feel alone. A scholarship through SSP will allow her to go to the Annual Student Support Symposium in late June in Ohio to learn how to better serve parents in the community.

Fabian plans to graduate in fall 2012. She is thankful for support from the Self Sufficiency Program, professors within her degree program, access to “high quality” childcare on campus and scholarships. She’s received an Organization for Campus Women scholarship every year since she started at UW-L.

“My children are a reflection of not just me but the community that is supporting me,” she explains.

And those children, well, they’re pretty great, says Fabian, excitedly pulling up the pictures of the two blondes on her cell phone. Grace, an inquisitive four year old likes to ask mom in-depth questions like how the earth hangs in the sky. Jane, 6, is already learning to play guitar.

“I love being a mom. I love my kids,” she says. “They’re your first smiles in the morning when they come into your bedroom attacking you and the last kisses you get at night when you tuck them into bed.”

And as a single mom she has to find a way to provide those “gorgeous little girls.” That’s plenty of motivation to go back to college.

“My children’s best interest is for me to love and support them — by giving them hugs, but also by buying them sneakers and food,” says Fabian. “That’s not something I want the state to do for me. So I’m back in college.”

Self Sufficiency Program: A free, one-semester program available at UW-L that seeks to extend the availability of higher education to low-income parents by preparing them to be successful college students. Read more about the program.