As May quickly approaches, graduating seniors prepare themselves for what’s felt like a long time coming. But one student has been waiting longer than most.

Apart from his degree taking him six years, rather than the standard four after transferring from Manchester Community College in Connecticut, Jesse McVaney, 32, had a bit of a later start.

He took anything but the conventional road when beginning his pursuit of higher education.  While McVaney technically graduated from high school in 2001, he said he’d dropped out before that point and received his diploma through Adult Education instead.  

Over the course of 10 years, McVaney toured with bands across the United States, worked in construction and even got married before winding up at the University of Rhode Island for biomedical engineering.  

Although McVaney admitted to wondering what his life would be like if he’d attended college in the traditional sense, he ultimately said he doesn’t regret the road he took to get to where he is today.

“I would probably be a lot more financially stable if I had just come to school right away,” McVaney said. “But I would be a totally different person if I hadn’t spent that time traveling around the US and meeting so many different types of people.”

McVaney toured with multiple bands and even moved his music career to Portland, Oregon, at one point, but he said he spent most of that time touring with the band Call it Arson, playing the drums.  

Apart from his music career, McVaney said he also spent seven years working in construction and even tried to receive a certificate in graphic design at Gibbs College before they lost their accreditation.  

After two years at Manchester Community College, McVaney chose to study at URI specifically because of the professors in the engineering department, rather than attending the University of Connecticut where he felt that professors were not as approachable or interesting.  

For more than a year now, McVaney has been working in the undergraduate engineering lab in Wales Hall for Dr. Manbir Sodhi building embedded circuits.  Through this experience, McVaney decided to focus his studies on industrial engineering, which he hopes to study at Rhode Island School of Design next year if he’s accepted to their masters program.  

As an adult undergraduate student, McVaney said that he doesn’t find it hard to relate to students in his general education courses, but that he does notice a generational gap when looking at work ethic or even childhood memories and experiences.  Unlike most students in his classes, McVaney faces additional pressures of adult life like bills, which can put a strain on him.

“I don’t have the freedom to not do it right the first time,” McVaney said.  “I have to pay rent, so there’s no one there to catch me if I fall.  It’s a lot more serious.”

Serious challenges for McVaney are about to pay off in equally serious rewards now that he’s finally received his college diploma.  Because McVaney received his high school diploma through Adult Education, this will be the first graduation he’s ever attended.

“I’m so pumped,” McVaney said. “It’ll be my first huge accomplishment. I came back, I did this thing, and I finished it.”