FORT WORTH -- Janie and Taylor Pokluda don't share just a mother-and-son bond -- they are both in the Texas Wesleyan University Class of 2011.
Taylor Pokluda started working toward a kinesiology degree at about the same time his mother, who had spent years at home caring for him, decided to go back to college to improve her career opportunities.
"I think it's kind of cool that we are actually going to graduate together," said Taylor Pokluda, 22.
They will be among about 180 students participating in Wesleyan's campus ceremony today at Will Rogers Auditorium. Among the graduates will be about 10 military veterans receiving honor cords.
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The graduation, described as Wesleyan's Historic Campus event, is among several fall 2011 ceremonies. Friday marked the university's first graduating class in the Doctorate of Nurse Anesthesia Practice program, which is completely online. The graduates are from various parts of the country and come from different backgrounds. Wesleyan also held a School of Law graduation ceremony Friday.
'Kind of cool'
The Pokludas didn't plan to go to college together.
Janie Pokluda re-entered the work force in 2005, at Wesleyan's cashier office. By the time Taylor Pokluda graduated from Richland High School in 2007, she had decided to get a bachelor's degree.
The workplace had drastically changed since she worked in banking in the 1970s. One huge difference was technology, including computer software. Another difference is that a person could no longer move up the ladder without having a degree.
"You could stay at a bank and work your way up," Janie Pokluda said. "College was an asset, but it wasn't a requirement. Now, it is a requirement -- even to get job interviews."
In her current job, Janie Pokluda was surrounded by students working to further their education, an environment that helped lead her to enroll.
"I loved the learning," she said, adding that it was not easy to go back to school while juggling family matters and work.
Taylor Pokluda said it took a little while to get used to the idea that his mother was a college student, too.
"It's gone from kind of awkward to kind of cool because everybody knows my mom," he said.
Janie Pokluda said she tried to give her son space. Still, she was able to witness some of her only child's college experience -- from becoming a head cheerleader to making friends to succeeding in class.
"I am very proud of him," she said. "He is very smart."
The Pokludas learned that they share a competitive trait -- a characteristic that surfaced when they took a psychology class together.
Taylor Pokluda likes to listen to lectures from the back rows while his mother prefers to take rigorous notes in the front. But in "Psychology of Everyday Life," mother and son sat in the back. The class centered on relationships and how they fare under the stresses of work and health. Naturally, their dynamics seemed like a case study.
"My professor was watching us to see how me and my mom interacted in class," Taylor Pokluda said, adding that they tried to see who could get the higher grade on each test.
The results were a tie. Taylor Pokluda said that on three tests, they had the same grades: 96, 94 and 87.
"We would miss different things," said Janie Pokluda, adding that she dominated at multiple-choice questions while her son showed flair with essays.
The Pokludas will celebrate their graduation together at a family dinner.
"I'm just proud of both of them," said Gary Pokluda, Taylor's father and Janie's husband.
Taylor Pokluda plans to get a graduate degree in occupational therapy. He wants to work as a personal trainer or strength-training coach at a university. Janie Pokluda's game plan is to continue working at Texas Wesleyan.
"I love the campus. I love the atmosphere. I love the students," she said.
Diane Smith, 817-390-7675