Every year, Fran Bossi oversees the arrival and organization of more than 32,000 undergraduate applications for admission into the University of Virginia. So when the senior operations manager for the Office of Undergraduate Admission decided to go for her own diploma, it was a little strange to be on the other side of the application process.
“It was weird,” she said. “I was so careful about my essays and everything because I was really thinking about how we look at things from the admissions side.”
Her hard work paid off. Bossi applied and was accepted to UVA’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies – one of the schools that does not process applications through her office – with the intention of completing her bachelor’s degree.
Bossi has taken a slow and steady path toward graduation. She always wanted to complete her undergraduate degree, but was busy running a small media business with her husband for 26 years and raising three children along the way. When they sold the business and she came to work for UVA eight years ago, she saw an opportunity.
“I had my associate’s degree and probably 30 more credits from different times when I restarted my academic career,” Bossi said. “When I came here, I knew it was time to finish it because it was something I regretted not having done when I was younger.”
Using the education benefits that are available to UVA employees, Bossi began taking one class a semester, carefully balancing her studies with her job responsibilities. With three semesters a year, it took her 6½ years to meet the requirements for a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies degree.
“It’s amazing that she was able to do all of this while also having such an important and demanding job,” Christy Pratt, senior associate dean of undergraduate admission, said. “She was always making sure everything in the office was running smoothly and then when she could, she was squeezing in a little time to prepare more for her papers or make some tweaks to them.”
Bossi’s associate’s degree was focused on business and accounting, but she wanted to explore new topics with her bachelor’s.
“I decided that since this was just for my benefit and my pleasure, I was going to take classes that I liked, and not necessarily business classes,” Bossi said. “I went more toward social sciences.”
While her academic studies tapped into different areas than her everyday work, Bossi found that the strong communication skills she honed in class were an asset in the office.
“My writing skills are much better than they were before. There’s an emphasis in interdisciplinary studies on learning to write clearly and concisely,” she said.
Likewise, her experience with a sometimes-demanding job helped her maintain a high level of focus and determination in her classes.
“That’s the interesting thing about Fran,” said Ann Marie Plunkett, a history scholar and assistant professor in the interdisciplinary studies program. “She is such a poised and level-headed person. There were times that I taught her in the spring and fall when the admissions office is incredibly busy, and Fran just managed to do everything well.”
While many of Bossi’s fellow graduates are thinking about using their degree in new careers, she is considering how her studies may help her when she’s ready to retire. Bossi says those days are still in the distant future, but when she is ready to retire, she’s going to make the most of her new degree.
Her final capstone project focused on the epidemic of childhood obesity in America. The research she did into nutrition and human behavior got her interested in exploring volunteer opportunities in that area.
“Research in that area interests me greatly,” Bossi said. “I think I’ll definitely get involved in that as part of my community volunteering once I’m retired. I’m not a person who sits still very easily.”
For now, Bossi is looking forward to walking the Lawn on May 22 with her children and grandchildren in attendance to cheer her on. After she receives her diploma, she’s excited to remain a member of the University community and continue helping bring new Wahoos to Grounds.
“I love my position and the fact that the work is constantly changing as we go through the application cycle. No two days are the same, which keeps it interesting,” she said. “Working here, where the Grounds are so beautiful, always makes me smile as I walk around.”