LaVerne Bowen’s mother found out she had cancer when Bowen was approaching her teens. She asked each of her seven children where they would like to travel with her. While Bowen’s brothers and sisters chose places in the West Indies, Europe, and Africa, Bowen chose Los Angeles. She wanted to see where the movies were made.

“We went on every single production tour, tours of the movie stars’ houses, because I wanted to be an actress and a director and my mother knew that,” said Bowen, who is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in communication and media studies from the School of Professional and Continuing Studies.

Soon after her mom passed away, Bowen’s father left his job at the fire department to became a full-time preacher in Harlem. The family lived above his Pentecostal church. Alone, with seven children, he encouraged them to get steady government jobs. For the past 15 years, Bowen has worked as a letter carrier for the United States Postal Service. A bit of a rebel, she left the family congregation to join a church on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. She worked in youth ministry there, putting on plays with the children that riffed on the pastor’s sermons.

One day, along her old route in the nearby West Farms neighborhood, Bowen noticed kids standing idle after school. She decided to break out the plays from her past and got the kids to perform fundraisers for a local storefront church. They eventually developed a program for Bronxnet, the local cable access network.

“From the time we did that show, my job was a better job, I loved going to work every day,” she said.

Around the same time, she began to notice Fordham literature in the mail she was delivering. She enrolled in 2005 and took some business courses, but soon needed a break from school to care for her son. She returned to Fordham in 2015 and realized business wasn’t a good fit. Roberta Willim, an assistant dean at the School of Professional and Continuing Studies, began to ask her about her background.

“When I started I didn’t really tell her about my past and my work with the kids, I just wanted to start fresh and go to school,” said Bowen.

Willim unearthed 60 credits that Bowen had accumulated from other colleges that could be transferred. She then set about getting Bowen life-experience credits for her community work.

“She sat and chatted with me and she said, ‘You’re gonna go for communications and you’re gonna
graduate,’” Bowen said. “I loved it and I started to flourish. I wrote a script about a mail lady called ‘She Delivers’!” she said with a laugh.

At a recent convention for postal and other federal employees, Bowen began to envision how her newfound media skills could take her beyond her route. She can now consider communications jobs within the post office and at other federal agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Smithsonian.

“With this degree, I can start applying to other jobs and bring my federal pension with me,” she said. “I love my route. But as a single woman, I have to look at the outcome for my future. I now have enhanced my skill sets and opened up options so I can be upwardly mobile.”


Tom Stoelker is senior staff writer and visual media coordinator for Fordham News. After fifteen years as a freelance designer, Tom shifted his focus to writing and photography. He graduated from Lehman College, CUNY where he majored in English literature and photography and he received his master's in journalism from Columbia University. His work has appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Wall Street Journal, and The Architect's Newspaper, where he was associate editor.