Not your average student: Ronda Peck is a mother, veteran and art major
“Ronda is a real inspiration,” art and art history professor Elise Richman said when asked about student Ronda Peck. Like other Puget Sound students, Peck has been working hard for four years to complete a bachelor’s degree. Unlike most other students, Peck is also a mother and military veteran.
“I was like, ‘Okay, I’m home,’” Peck said when asked how she knew a ceramics major was for her. After 21 years in the air force working as an emergency medical technician, Peck decided to come back to school as a so-called “returning student.” She remembered her interest in art, specifically ceramics, during high school.
“I retired out of Joint Base Lewis McChord air force. I googled college ceramic classes near me, and Puget Sound dominated the search. So, I made a phone call to admissions. … I wanted to keep an open mind, but I felt that because I gravitated towards ceramics in high school that I may come back to it,” Peck said. For Peck, 21 years away from ceramics didn’t lessen her passion for it.
Peck’s journey to becoming an art major has been unique from that of an average Puget Sound art student. As a returning student, Ronda has much more life experience than many of her peers. She is also extremely focused, knowledgeable and encouraging to her classmates.
“There is a level of maturity that makes you really hungry for knowledge and growth,” Richman, Peck’s professor for painting class last spring, said. “There is a type of wisdom and experience and a desire to learn. She is there for the right reasons. … She knows why she is there and she is focused.”
As a ceramics major, Peck was nervous for the painting class and the difficulties that this new medium might bring. Peck was also worried about the time that this class might take up and how she would continue to balance her roles as parent and student.
A large motivation for Peck’s choice to attend college was her son. Peck believes that her attendance at the University will help her son when it is his opportunity to go to college.
“He understands that I’m passionate about it, so when I say, ‘Hey buddy, we need to go to the studio tonight,’ he always says, ‘OK Mom.’ He has never said he can’t go and he always says OK. I think he observes how passionate I am about it and I would hope that I could give that back to him. If he says, ‘I want to study communication or art or science,’ whatever it is, I want to return that back to him,” Peck said.
When asked about her post-graduation plans, Peck relayed the expression of any soon-to-be graduate: she wasn’t completely sure. She does know that she is interested in pursuing a Master in Fine Arts. As for a dream, Peck hopes to have an open studio space in the future where veterans, and possibly their service animals, could gather to create ceramic art and support each other as a community.
“She is never just thinking about how she is doing. She works hard, she embodies that kind of ethos and self-motivation that is absolutely essential to be an artist,” Richman said.
It is Peck’s hardworking attitude that has carried her so far within her own research and work at Puget Sound. Those traits will certainly stay with Peck as she continues into her senior year and in her post-graduation career.