It Was Meant to Be: One Email Changed Cynthia Dennis’ Life

Neither personal tragedy nor 20 years out of the classroom could keep Cynthia Dennis ’11, from her ultimate goal of achieving a master’s degree from Mount Mercy University once she set her mind to it.

Dennis attended Cedar Rapids Prairie High School and later earned a degree from the University of Iowa in communication studies with a journalism minor. Dennis is now a probation parole supervisor for the 6th Judicial District Department of Correctional Services in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where she has been employed for nearly 28 years.

“I was interested in going to grad school back then, but after four and a half years of school I wanted to take a break,” Dennis said. “I had always wanted to go back to grad school, and it just took a while for me to be in a place where I was just ready to do it.”

Following the Cedar Rapids flood of 2008, Dennis found herself working at the Nelson Center, which was temporarily transformed into an alternate jail facility for Linn County.

“It gave me time to think about where I was in my career and things I wanted to do because I only had one wing of clients,” Dennis said.

During one of those long nights at work she received what she believed was a sign.

“I was sitting there…and I got an email from Mount Mercy saying ‘there is still time, we are having an open house for grad school tonight’,” Dennis said. “It said the open house started at 6 p.m. It was just then about 5:45 p.m., so I had time to get down there.

“I called my mom and said, ‘what do you think?’ I felt it was meant to be because it just popped up. She told me to go and check it out. I talked to Barb Pooley [at the open house], she said, ‘Listen; at this point in your life you’re going to be a different kind of learner. Try it. Just get started, and then if you have any concerns then you will know, but you won’t know unless you try.’ So I did. I signed up.”

While working toward her Master of Business Administration at MMU, Dennis experienced two tragic events in her life. In 2010 she unexpectedly lost her sister. This was followed in short order by her mother falling ill and passing away just a few weeks before graduation in spring 2011.

“My instructors were very supportive and so were my classmates,” Dennis said.

She said she felt compelled to complete her schooling to honor her mom.

“My mom was the one that really wanted me to do this; she encouraged me,” Dennis said. “If I could do nothing else for her, I wanted to finish this for her.”

Dennis believes her MBA from Mount Mercy has afforded her numerous opportunities she wouldn’t have had without furthering her education.

“If age is what is holding you back, just do it. Jump right in,” Dennis said. “You should just do it because that’s the only way you’ll know. It’s going to be uncomfortable. You’re not learning unless you’re challenging yourself.”

Written by Lisa Lafler ’93, ’15