“I never thought I’d get to go to college, let alone attend college with my daughters,” said Thelma McKenzie, a junior sociology major at IU South Bend.
As a bonus, Thelma and her daughters, Brianna McKenzie, a junior general studies major, and Jessica McKenzie, a senior communications major, all took Professor in Sociology Betsy Lucal's class, Contested Sexualities, in Spring 2018.
Lucal was delighted to have all three in her class this semester.“It’s been a lot of fun to have all three family members in my class,” said Lucal. “They are all great students.” Lucal recalled a time when students Thelma’s age were the norm in her classes. “I’ve taught at IU South Bend for 20 years,” Lucal said. “When I first started teaching,
Thelma would have been the typical student enrolled at IU South Bend at the time.” Times have changed and now Lucal’s classes have more traditional-aged college students.
After graduating from Elkhart Central, Jessica started her college career at IU South Bend with the intention of transferring to another college after her freshman year. She never left. “Staying at IU South Bend was the right decision for me,” said Jessica. The senior communications major works for a property management group and hopes to move to the marketing side of the operation after her graduation in May.
A year later, Brianna followed in her sister’s footsteps after she graduated from Elkhart Central. “I have a five-year-old daughter, so I needed to remain close to home, and my sister was here,”explained the junior general studies major. Mother and daughter will graduate together next year.“I am super proud of Mom,” Brianna said. “I was a little nervous for her at first, but IU South Bend is such a diverse, friendly campus that she adjusted quickly.”
In addition to attending IU South Bend, Thelma and her husband of 33 years are foster parents to four children ages 15, 14, 11, and 5. She’s also a substitute teacher in Elkhart Community Schools, a mental health technician at Oaklawn Psychiatric Center, and a part-time minister.
She has found Lucal’s class about sexuality very relevant to her future in pastoral care. “The things we are learning about are so important,” Thelma said. “I can sit and listen to discussions in this class and feel more empathetic and understanding about different sexual orientations and preferences, which will ultimately enhance my ministerial life.”
All three family members appreciate the opportunity to explore topics related to race, religion, interracial marriages, and sexuality in all its forms. They applaud Lucal’s ability to set the stage for open, honest discussions about topics that often create divides between people and hinder meaningful conversations.
“Dr. Lucal discusses things I’m still thinking about long after class is over,” said Jessica. Brianna agreed and added, “I look forward to coming to this class every week because it is so interesting.”
The women continue their class discussions at home, too. “At family dinners, we often share our discussions with other family members and our boyfriends,”said Jessica.
Thelma and her two daughters agree that their relationship has always been open and honest, but the chance to explore together the topics covered in Lucal’s class has been especially meaningful and brought them closer. “It’s wonderful learning together in this class, and exploring and talking about these topics with my daughters,” said Thelma. “It’s a starter class for life. It encompasses all the very important issues of life and society—diversity, race, religion, and sexuality.”