Caesar Rodney grad earns dual degrees from Delaware State, University of Delaware

Nearing graduation ceremonies at two colleges, Junessa Pressley sits at a Steinway piano at the University of Delaware recently. (Delaware State University/Carlos Holmes)

DOVER — Maybe it’s been done before, but perhaps not.

Juneessa Pressley earned undergraduate degrees simultaneously from both Delaware State University and the University of Delaware in the wide-ranging fields of music and chemistry.

After receiving her diploma from DSU on Saturday with over 600 other graduates, the 21-year-old Caesar Rodney High product still has a UD ceremony to attend on May 26.

That’s happening “for the first time as far as anyone can remember,” according to DSU spokesman Carlos Holmes.

Despite achieving what’s at the very least rare and at the most unprecedented, Ms. Pressley said, “I don’t think of myself as extraordinary.

“I like to think anyone could do it if they put their mind to it. People think it must have been intense, but it really wasn’t.”

Certainly the opportunity to take online courses cut down on the logistical challenge of attending both schools, and Ms. Pressley was able to transfer a number of credits from UD when starting her full-time studies at DSU with summer science courses.

College began in high school for Ms. Pressley when she earned credits for a biology course taken at DSU.

Oh, and there was time to take an Introduction to Computers course at Delaware Technical Community College as well.

So many credit hours in such little time just came naturally.

“I don’t think I will ever get into slowdown mode,” she said. “I’m always interested in too many things.”

Eventually, Ms. Pressley said she earned “mostly As” while getting a Bachelor of Arts in Integrated Studies (concentrated on chemistry and music) at DSU and a “3.5ish” grade-point average in her Bachelor of Music pathway in Music, Applied Instrument in piano at UD.

The hardest part of it all was just getting started at UD as a freshman. Ms. Pressley said the transition from CR High to college “was a huge culture shock but I eventually got used to it.

“I think I realized at some point that this is probably what it’s like in the real world.”

Meeting UD piano teacher Marie-Christine DelBeau prompted a switch from her original music composition major. While in college, Ms. Pressley oversaw the Piano Studio Club at Delaware and played jazz trombone for audiences at the Smyrna Opera House and Newark Public Library.

While Ms. Pressley said her mother Diane pushed her to explore more than just a music education, “I always felt like she would be proud of me and support me in whatever I did, however successful I was in it.”

The UD/DSU alumnus acknowledged that “these four years have been jam-packed and I would like to slow down for just a little while.”

Up next is graduate school in DSU’s Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience Master’s Degree Program. Ms. Pressley has her eyes on becoming a biomedical researcher and is interested in the effects music has on the human brain through neurotherapy .

Ms. Pressley plans to work with DSU Associate Professors Dr. Mable Morrison and Dr. David Tolley in developing her musical skills while still in school.

“I find the piano to be very relaxing,” she said.

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