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Carpenter Bond Overcomes Life Obstacles to Complete Master’s Degree

Wednesday, February 3, 2021


Tracy Carpenter BondPromise made. Promise kept. But the road to fulfillment of that promise did not quite go according to Tracy Carpenter Bond’s plan.

Carpenter Bond, the districtwide coordinator of veterans affairs at St. Louis Community College, is a 34-year veteran of the U.S. Navy Reserves. She served as a combat medic and biomedical engineer, retiring from the service in October 2020.

After returning from deployment from Landstuhl, Germany, in 2010, Carpenter Bond found integration back into mainstream society challenging. She was hired as a temporary worker in 2011 in the Academic Support Center at St. Louis Community College-Florissant Valley and then as a math tutor. She also served as an adjunct instructor in developmental math before taking on her current duties.

Carpenter Bond decided to embark on a career path that would help other veterans successfully integrate. So, in 2017, she decided to pursue a master’s degree in industrial/organizational psychology and enroll at Missouri University of Science and Technology.

“I wanted to help my fellow military brothers and sisters and also study an area that would allow me to better serve my STLCC family and the student veterans that had been placed under my purview,” she said. “I needed to find an area that would help me to better understand the human behavior and how it works in large organizations—I/O psychology fit the bill.”

I/O psych is the scientific study of human behavior in organizations as well as in the workplace. This specialty focuses on deriving principle of individual, group and organizational behavior and applying that knowledge to the solutions of the problem in those arenas.

After enrolling, things got even more challenging for Carpenter Bond. She first was diagnosed with a rare aggressive form of cancer. Her father died. She provided support for her grieving mother. She underwent chemotherapy and surgeries, to ultimately receive a stage 4 cancer diagnosis.

“I would sometimes ask myself, ‘What was I thinking?’, to take on something this big,” she said.

With the support of the Missouri S&T faculty, Carpenter Bond pressed on. In early 2020, Carpenter Bond and her son, Collin, made a pact to attend college together that fall, she to finish her degree and he, to begin his educational journey.

But tragedy struck once again. At age 28, Collin died unexpectedly died of cardiac dysrhythmia in April 2020 while playing basketball.

“He was an intelligent kid, but also hated conventional education and wanted to go out on his own and start his own business,” Carpenter Bond said. “I had finally convinced him to go to school and get formal credentials that would help him succeed, and we agreed that he would start back to school in fall 2020 with me. He was starting his first degree and I would be finishing my master’s and preparing to begin my Ph.D.

“I had to find a new way to live – a reason to live – I needed to keep him alive in my heart,” she said. “So, I decided I would go back to school to fulfill my promise to him. I could hear him saying, ‘Go on, Mom, you got this. You can do this.’”

With that, she pressed on. Fast-forward to Dec. 19, 2020, and Carpenter Bond found herself delivering a speech at Missouri S&T’s Fall Virtual Commencement Ceremony.

In that speech, she said: “If I can leave you with one thought today, it would be that having everything people say about success, and what it’s made of is nothing without the support of those who love you and support you and are in your corner. Without the support of my husband and family, the S&T faculty and Access staff, my advisers, I could not be sitting here realizing a promise that I made to my son.”

And ironically, Carpenter Bond’s father would have turned 78 on that day.

Carpenter Bond plans to continue her educational journey and hopes to pursue a doctorate in military post-traumatic resiliency.

“Sure, we experience horrific things sometimes when we are serving in locations that expose us to terrible, traumatic, hurtful things without enough time to process and heal, we also learn and possess as military members tools, processes, mechanisms that help us to push forward in those times,” she said. “We learn to find ways to deal with what we are experiencing in such a way that we are able to continue with and complete the missions that are laid to our charge and do so successfully. That resiliency is something that also needs as much research as focusing on the traumatic part of our service and also I believe will help to better treat the disorder by also focusing on the nuances of resiliency that helped us to survive those events are the same tools that can help up us to process, heal, and create our new normalcy and place in society once we return from service.”

Carpenter Bond’s speech begins at the 7:58 mark of the Missouri S&T Commencement Ceremony.

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