Nontraditional student reflects on her journey to becoming a Blugold

After wanting to be a UWEC student for 29 years, Paulson-Gregoire finds herself finally achieving her dream

More stories from Ta’Leah Van Sistine


Photo by Sam Farley

Lizzie Paulson-Gregoire joined the Blugold community in the Fall of 2017.

Lizzie Paulson-Gregoire, a second-year English education student, said she has wanted to go to UW-Eau Claire since she was three years old.

She was first introduced to campus because her grandmother, Ellie Paulson, was enrolled in a photography class at the university and recruited Paulson-Gregoire for a photography session. Paulson-Gregoire was then casted in UW-Eau Claire’s production of the “Ballad of Robin Hood” at seven years old, along with her mother, Dawn Paulson, who was also a Blugold at the time.

As a social work major and music therapy minor, Paulson continued to bring Paulson-Gregoire to campus because she served as an experimental subject for students.

“I used to be the guinea pig, and (I would) get to hang out with all of the students as they did some of their more adolescent research and sang songs to me and asked me how I felt about them,” Paulson-Gregoire said. “It was really a neat experience.”

Lee Anna Rasar, the music therapy program director at UW-Eau Claire, taught the Music Therapy Techniques class that Paulson-Gregoire became a part of. She said that herself and Paulson-Gregoire’s mother both agreed it would be a good idea to bring Paulson-Gregoire to the class. She also remarked that Paulson-Gregoire became like a member of the course’s family.

“(We both thought it would be) fantastic for her to bring Lizzie to class and let Lizzie try out the things they (the students) created,” Rasar said. “Lizzie really enjoyed it.”

Although Paulson-Gregoire was involved and familiar with UW-Eau Claire at such a young age, it was not until Fall 2017, when she was 32 years old, that she became a Blugold herself.

“Unlike most students who come here directly out of high school, it took me awhile to get here, which is surprising because my aunt, and my uncle, my grandmother, and my mother are all UWEC grads,” Paulson-Gregoire said.

She explained that, after she had kids and her life began to settle down, she reflected on pursuing a college education and knew that she still wanted to attend UW-Eau Claire. However, Paulson-Gregoire attended a high school in Cameron, Wisconsin, which eventually closed and lead to the termination of her high school transcript.

“When they closed, they gave all the transcript records that they had to the parent organization that had founded the school, and they were like ‘We don’t know what to do with this,’ so they just shredded it, like it was any kind of paperwork, like they didn’t realize what they were,” Paulson-Gregoire said. “There were only, like, ten people who ever graduated from the school, but all of us are basically without transcripts now.”

With all of her student records and grades destroyed in this accident, Paulson-Gregoire was given the option to either work for, and receive, her GED, or she could take a semester of classes at the Chippewa Valley Technical College.

“I graduated high school with honors, I took college courses in high school,” Paulson-Gregoire said. “I’m not going to get my GED and have that be the record of my existence, and so I decided to take the semester at CVTC.”

In the end, Paulson-Gregoire remained at CVTC for a year and a half to complete their Business Management program because she believed, and still believes, in UW-Eau Claire’s motto about the power of [AND]. She thought the business management skills she learned from CVTC could serve as the other component of her education, along with her English education degree that she hopes to receive at UW-Eau Claire. This way, even though she does not have her high school transcript, she has an Honors associate diploma in business management.

Now, after 29 years, Paulson-Gregoire has finally pursued her dream of becoming a Blugold. Students and friends she has made around campus call her ‘Mom,’ since she is a mother and a stepmother to four boys who range from four to nine years old.

Elizabeth Joosten, a lecturer of music-choral and assistant director of choral studies, has Paulson-Gregoire as a choir student and said other choir members refer to her as ‘Mom’ as well.

“The girls adopted her as the choir mom,” Joosten said. “That’s what people refer to her as.”

Amidst her roles as a student and mother, she currently lives in Altoona, Wisconsin where she takes care of her mother, grandmother and family. She also works at Maurices.

With this busy schedule, Paulson-Gregoire said she finds herself occasionally taking a break at the Oasis, the nontraditional student room on the second floor of the Davies Center.

“I like it because it’s a place for me to feel like there’s a home away from home because we don’t have dorms (and) we don’t live on campus,” Paulson-Gregoire said. “I can bring my lunch and stick it in the fridge, I can use the microwave, I can brew a cup of coffee, there (are) computers, there’s a printer, (and) it really kinda has everything I need. They call it the Oasis for a reason,” Paulson-Gregoire said. “It’s sort of a place to take a break from college without leaving the university.”

When entering the Oasis, there is also a sign with the phrase “It’s never too late to follow a dream” at the bottom. Paulson-Gregoire said she admired this phrase because it relates to why she is now a Blugold at UW-Eau Claire.

As she continues to pursue a degree in English education, Paulson-Gregoire said she hopes to someday teach high school students, and she continues to reflect on how proud she is to be a student at UW-Eau Claire.

“I’ve been walking the halls of this campus forever and it might have taken me awhile to get here, but I’m so excited to be the fifth person in my family who will graduate with the Blugold name,” Paulson-Gregoire said. “Now that I’m a mom, my biggest motivation in that aspect is that I want to show my kids that no matter what it takes, and no matter how long it takes you to get there, if you have a dream, you can achieve it.”

Van Sistine can be reached at [email protected]