Family that has learned together for years all end up at the U.
Earning degrees is the culmination of a lifelong endeavor for the Reisers.
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For the Reiser family, education is a high priority.

When Amanda and Harrison were elementary school age, their parents, Lauren and Alan — who home schooled their children for several years — packed the family into a motorhome and took a year-long trip, hitting nearly every state in the nation. They learned about everything from dinosaurs to American Indians to recent U.S. history.

Now, Amanda, 20, and Harrison, 22, just graduated together from the University of Utah, and mom and dad aren't far behind.

Alan is completing coursework for his comparative literature master's degree, and a few months ago, Lauren landed a job in the accounting department of the Campus Store and will transfer to the U. from Salt Lake Community College this fall.

"We've always been called the learning family," Alan Reiser said.

Alan, who worked for years with computers, moved the family to Japan when his children were young. When they moved back to the United States, they decided to home school their kids for several years.

Harrison started taking classes at Utah Valley State College (now Utah Valley University) when he was high school age.

"I still blame my dad for introducing me to computers," said Harrison, who graduated with a double degree in computer science and computer engineering. "I used to sit on his lap and plunk away at the keyboard."

He works at the Marriott Library on campus fixing Mac computers, and he has met his mom for lunch at the library cafe nearly every day.

Amanda joined them about once a week as she worked on her bachelor of fine arts in performing arts design with a costume emphasis. She also works part-time at the costume shop at Hale Center Theatre. The brother and sister duo are graduating at the same time because Amanda knocked out about a year-and-a-half worth of credits in an International Baccalaureate program in high school.

She fell in love with costumes on that coast-to-coast trip, watching re-enactments of colonial or Civil War history.

"We would go to colonial Williamsburg and living history museums," she said. "History was always something I loved."

One of her aunts contacted her while she was in her junior year of high school to do an internship with Brenda Vanderwiel, an assistant professor who works with the design program.

She was hooked.

During her academic career, she has designed and made costumes for more than three shows at the Babcock Theatre on campus.

"It's a really professional theater, even though it's student-run," she said.

Her brother also incorporates art into his majors, though they are commonly called the two most difficult majors on campus.

It didn't surprise his mother, though, that Harrison tackled such tough topics.

"He was the 8-year-old who would take a physics book to bed for a little light reading at night," Lauren said.

But for Harrison, computers are how he "learned to appreciate music."

For one of his senior projects, he has designed a digital keyboard. Another senior project had him working with classmates on the video game Heroes of Hat, which is in beta testing on Xbox and should be available on the Xbox Live Indie Market soon.

Ironically, their father has swung from the world of computers into the world of literature, delving into Classical Greek and Japanese works.

He never completed his undergraduate degree when he started college about 25 years ago. He contracted pneumonia, which took him out of school for awhile, and then started working computer jobs. He didn't decide to go back to school until his children began applying for school.

"I figured I had better set the example for them and get to college," he joked as his children started about the same time he did.

His wife stayed home to raise the kids, but later worked outside the home. When she was laid off as a bookkeeper when the economy soured, she started applying for jobs everywhere.

She also started taking classes at Salt Lake Community College, but when she landed her job at the U. a few months ago, she decided to transfer, and she'll start in the fall.

"We've been learning together for a long time in a lot of places," Alan said. "It's funny we all ended up here at the U., but this is where my dad and our aunts and uncles got their degrees, too."

smcfarland@sltrib.com

Twitter: @sheena5427