June 3, 2021

Returning Learner Vicki Dunbar Graduates from Mesa College with her Bachelor’s Degree

By Ken Berger & Lauren Dorst

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As a new graduate of Mesa College’s Health Information Management (HIM) bachelor’s program, Vicki Dunbar celebrates an educational milestone almost 30 years in the making.


While Dunbar originally intended to continue her education immediately after earning an associate degree in Health Information Technology from Cypress College in 1994, life steered her in another direction.


As the years passed, Dunbar celebrated many milestones: she got married, had a child, and even became a grandmother to several grandchildren. “You never know what life will throw your way,” she says, “Make every moment count.”


As her family grew, Dunbar also enjoyed a successful career as a Medical Data and Business Systems Analyst and became both an American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) Registered Health Information Technologist and a Certified Coding Specialist.


As part of her job, Dunbar would frequently attend health information conferences. It was at one such conference in Sacramento, where she met Cassi Birnbaum, an advocate of continuing education, who introduced Dunbar to the new Health Information Management bachelor’s program being offered at Mesa College.


Convinced that this was the perfect time for her to return to school and earn her bachelor’s degree, Dunbar applied to the program, was accepted, and began taking classes at Mesa College in the summer of 2019.


“It has been a roller coaster since then,” she says, “thrilling, scary, overwhelming.”


As a student in the Health Information Management bachelor’s program, Dunbar spent two years learning and growing with the other thirty-one students who completed the cohort. During this time, they fostered life-long relationships, having had many opportunities to work together during collaborative projects.


As Dunbar says, “trust is a two-way street—it is given and earned.” And while she learned to trust many of her classmates, she also found trust in the program’s faculty and staff who guided her along her educational journey and the adjustment to online learning.


Perhaps the most impactful takeaway from her years of learning has been the evolving perspective Dunbar carries into her work. The first course of the program, "Ethics in Healthcare,” deepened her understanding into the way people think, feel, react, and treat others. She describes the course as one of the most challenging and transformative of her studies.


“We are experiencing a massive division in our community, state, and nation, but our diversity makes us a great country. Our time here at Mesa College has taught us that we all matter, irrespective of our culture, choices, or lifestyle. As a student body, we strive to better ourselves and our classmates, as shining beacons for the San Diego Community College District. We must remember that perspective is everything.”


Dunbar’s own unique perspective is made richer through her personal and professional experiences as well as her culminating journey at Mesa College 27 years after earning her associate degree. One can expect many more milestones as Dunbar continues her journey as a Mesa College alumna.


 Learn more about Mesa College's HIM bachelor's degree program and Allied Health Department.

Tags: Health Information Management, Health Information Technology, Allied Health, Continuing Education, Vicki Dunbar, Post-traditional students, Bachelor's Degree, Adult Learners