But fast-forward just four years later, and now she’s not only graduating as part of the Class of 2020, she’s doing so as Yorkville’s Ontario Campus valedictorian.
“I honestly didn’t know if I had what it took to be a university student,” said the grandmother of 10 from Oro-Medonte, Ontario.
“I didn’t know what the experience would be like, I didn’t know what professors would be like, I didn’t know what would be expected of me. I really was jumping into a void that I didn’t fully understand.”
Growing up, Chapman always knew having children and raising a family was her first desire in life. It wasn’t until her four kids were grown and began to start families of their own that she decided to pursue some new life passions.
“I got married shortly after high school, started my family right away, and ended up being a stay-at-home mom to my four kids, who I homeschooled,” she explained, noting that, once the kids were out of the house, she took on a retail job she didn’t much enjoy.
“It wasn’t a great fit for me, but I didn’t have any post-secondary education to get any of the jobs I felt I would enjoy working at, so that’s when I got researching.”
First off, Chapman stumbled upon a description of interior design that better explained the complexity of the field – and her interest was immediately piqued.
“Before that, I don’t think I had a full understanding of what it was. I think, like most people, I thought it was just interior decorating. When I got a full description of what it really was, I realized what a good fit it was for the things I naturally like to do,” said the self-described problem solver and skillful customer service representative.
“I also took drafting in high school and it was my favourite course ever, so even throughout my childhood there were little dabblings in space planning and designing that I didn’t recognize until later on.”
Upon further research into her Interior Design study options, Chapman found Yorkville University’s Bachelor of Interior Design degree. The flexibility of the program’s online offerings, which allowed her to continue working full-time while she decided if interior design was the right fit for her, was what sealed the deal.
“I worked and studied for I think about a year and a half, then I quit my job and went to school full time,” she said, noting that she eventually decided to make the commute to Yorkville’s Steeles Campus to complete her courses in the classroom.
While Chapman said her first term brought with it some challenges – namely difficulties adjusting to the need for late-night study sessions – she was able to make it through the transition with the help of her supportive husband and children.
“Everyone was so excited…but, if I’m being honest, I was actually considering not carrying on after the first term, even though I loved it,” she confessed.
“I found it very difficult at times…but my husband had bought me a nice computer and computer desk, so I felt like I should push it a little further and see how far I could go with it. Without the support of my family, I wouldn’t have made it through.”
Once adjusted to her new schedule, Chapman settled in and began to thrive, finding herself drawn to sustainable design and restoration – an interest she drew upon while completing her capstone project.
Tasked with resolving a social concern through design, Chapman’s capstone project tackled the conversion of a former bus terminal into a church-owned community hub under whose roof “all aspects of social living can be looked after” – including a sanctuary, a community hall, a childcare centre, a communal kitchen, an internet lounge, a café, and a retail outlet, as well as plenty of office and classroom space.
“I found out that I like the idea of taking an old building and breathing new life into it with a new use through adaptive reuse,” said Chapman, who’s now working towards her National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ).
“I would love to get into historical buildings and bring back the historical essence, yet make is usable for something new – that’s what I would love to do.”