Student Success

Midlife Career Shift

In middle age, Randy Dudley brings practical wisdom to social work

A man talking.


icon of a calendarJune 22, 2020

icon of a pencilBy Patrick Dunn

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When Randy Dudley, CAS ’16, walked into his first class at Oakland University at age 43, he says he felt like he had “broken some roadblocks.”

Dudley had a difficult childhood, growing up with parents who were both heroin addicts. He enlisted in the Army to use the G.I. Bill benefits to go to college, but after his service term ended, he got married and started working at Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS).

While at BCBS, he enrolled at Oakland Community College (OCC) and, thirteen years later, got a divorce. That was when Dudley decided to fully pursue his educational dreams instead of “sitting on my hands.”

“Life kept happening, and I didn’t want it to stop me from my goal,” Dudley says.

While at OCC, Dudley met Maria Beam, director of OU’s social work program. Beam introduced him to the social work staff at Oakland University and he transferred there in 2010 to pursue his bachelor’s degree in social work.

“Their willingness to open up and accept me gave me an opportunity to just be myself,” Dudley says. “The transition was really easy at OU.”

Dudley graduated from OU in 2016 and delivered the opening remarks at his class’ pinning ceremony. Although he got a late start in his education and new career, he says his age and experience give him a unique advantage in building trust and relating to his clients.

“It takes a special person to work with people who have given up in life,” Dudley says. “And I feel like, as an older man who had a lot of odds seemingly against him, I realized that it was just a state of mind and that realization allowed me to overcome those odds.”

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