Maureen Reustle spent years as an educator and college administrator before applying to the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies. With her children grown and her husband traveling, the time seemed right to resume academic study. Only this time Reustle, who had a master’s in education, wanted to explore the humanities. She dreamed of immersing herself in history, literature and drama. “I wanted to take courses in disciplines I really hadn’t had an opportunity to pursue,” says Reustle, dean of academic services at Ocean County College. A generous aid package from Drew brought the dream within her reach, and in 2007 she began commuting north to campus one evening a week.
Each semester she took one course, moving slowly but steadily towards the doctorate she had always wanted. “I never appreciated history before. Drew took my life in a whole different direction. The faculty were incredible—they were so into their disciplines—and so encouraging, it was wonderful,” she says. Reustle, the granddaughter of Irish Catholic immigrants, wrote her dissertation, “Hatred to Hope,” on the street murals of Northern Ireland. The murals, famous examples of political art, depict the long conflict between Protestants and Catholics. She traveled on her own to Belfast and Derry to view them and interviewed members of Northern Ireland’s Re-imaging Communities Project. After peace took hold, the government funded an arts program to remove or modify murals deemed offensive or likely to incite violence.
“I’m not done studying,” says Reustle, who is deeply appreciative of the aid that financed her studies. In the meantime, she brings new skills to the table as a college administrator. “I learned a lot about conflict transformation, which I think applies to all aspects of life, including work situations. Conflicting values and division between different factions are certainly a fact of life on college campuses.”