Investing in Education: PCC Professor Helps Business Students Stay in School

When PCC business professor Shelley Gaskin noticed that some of her students were having trouble affording things like books and computers for her classes, she decided to act. 

“A lot of people think of college students as these 18 and 19-year-olds whose parents are sending them off to school and paying for their education, but that’s not always the case,” she said. “The typical community college student is a myth: there isn’t one. So many of PCC’s students are parents themselves, and they require childcare; many of them work full-time jobs.”

In 2016, Shelley established a scholarship fund with the PCC Foundation, which would provide book vouchers that students could use to purchase supplies from the campus bookstore. 

But when her mother passed away in October 2020, Shelley decided to change the fund.

“My mother was a big part of my life,” she said. “She always encouraged her children to get an education—my brother, my sister and I are all first-generation college students. And because of her positive influence in our lives, we thought it would be good to establish an award in her honor.”

The Shelley Gaskin Fund in Memory of Florence Stroup—her mother—is now a scholarship endowment, with a main focus of awarding students who are working toward the completion of any certificate of achievement under PCC’s business division or students who are working toward the completion of the business administration transfer degree. 

“I wanted to make the award specifically for students studying business or accounting or computer information systems,” Shelley explained. “These are the fields I know students can be successful in fairly quickly.”

Shelley knew students would be coming from all different walks of life, so she made the award all encompassing: it can be put toward books and study supplies, tuition and fees, technology hardware and software, living expenses, and childcare or eldercare. 

“Anything to help students stay in school really,” she said. “I’ve been teaching at PCC since 1994, and I’ve seen so many different types of students, all with different needs. It’s important for me to lend a helping hand when I can.”

Of course, Shelley is no stranger to advocating for people’s success. Even before remote learning became the norm, she was a pioneer for PCC’s first online certificate for business students in 2006. 

After realizing that many of her students were unable to be on campus to complete their coursework because of obligations to jobs or family, she and her colleagues decided that the online program was necessary.

“We have to go where the students are,” she said. “This is especially true for community college students, many of whom have responsibilities other than getting their college education. Think about the way the economy has shifted lately; students can have such unpredictable work schedules—maybe they have to work days, maybe they can’t get night shifts. That’s why online instruction has become so important, and I think we understand that so much better in the wake of 2020.”

And it’s clear that Shelley’s students carry with them the real results of her support: knowledge, appreciation, resources, and a drive to succeed. 

“I hope what I do inspires others to contribute to the Foundation and make opportunities available to our students,” Shelley said. “They’re worth it.”