Life gets in the way, often, but UC student perseveres

Tabetha Cloke doesn’t see obstacles. She only sees opportunity.

It’s been said that when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

“It just doesn’t occur to me to stop,” says University of Cincinnati student Tabetha Cloke, whose degree path has been fraught with roadblocks that might have derailed her many times along the way. Instead, Cloke chooses to approach her educational pursuit with positivity and mental fortitude. 

“I’ve managed to stick it out because of the support network I have here,” Cloke says of UC, where she has 14 credit hours remaining before receiving a bachelor’s degree in psychology and organizational leadership with a human resources focus.

While a traditional student could likely knock those credits out in one semester, Cloke, of Middletown, Ohio, is looking to a spring 2021 graduation. That’s because she is a part-time student who has been chipping away, credit hour by credit hour, since 2012, when she enrolled in her first class at age 27.

UC psychology student Tabetha Cloke in her Middletown sewing shop with a handful of homemade masks in her hand.

UC psychology student Tabetha Cloke in her Middletown sewing shop with masks she makes for the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo/provided/Cloke

“I knew if I didn’t enroll right then it would be an ‘Oh, I’ll do it someday’ situation,” she says of juggling coursework, working both full time and part time in the fast-food, retail and grocery industries and additionally running her own small business as a seamstress in a studio in Middletown.

As if the challenges of a work/school balance as a commuter wouldn’t tax her enough, add all this: periods of grave financial struggle, a car accident, a tragic death in her immediate family, a flood that damaged her business, an illness that took her down for a week and recently losing her leased apartment due to a paperwork error.

Cloke had just returned from driving across town, in 90-degree heat in a car with no air conditioning, to a friend’s house in a Cincinnati suburb where she is staying until she can find a new apartment.

“Air conditioning is on the list, but the list is long,” she says with a laugh. 

“Most people like this gave up on college and moved on. She’s stuck with it,” says Thomas Mobley, Cloke’s mentor and assistant professor–educator in the UC College of Arts and Sciences’ organizational leadership/human resource management program.

Through a networking program Mobley developed for students, alumni and HR professionals, called HR Succeeds, Cloke says she’s found big shoulders to lean on during the difficult times. For example, when her sewing studio flooded, five students from the group came to help her clean up.

“As long as you are willing to reach out then people at UC are willing to help you. I don’t think I could have made it this far without them,” she says, noting that it’s her own passion for connecting with people that led her to her chosen field.

And Cloke in turn helps others where she can. When COVID-19 led to a mask shortage, she converted her sewing operations to mask making, with a “buy one/donate one” model, making 400 masks to support first responders.

Her first steps after graduation, Cloke says, are to secure a position in human resources, because she likes the human interaction of the hiring process and “finding out what makes people tick.” Her ultimate goal, however, is to work as a relationship/sex therapist for people in nontraditional relationships, to which she responds in jest, “That means [more] school ahead of me that I’m not ready for. I need to not be in school for a little while.”  

Featured image at top: Tabetha Cloke and her mentor Thomas Mobley. Photo/provided/Cloke.  

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