Rep. Kristi Noem (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Kristi Noem is no longer the nation’s most powerful undergraduate. The first-term Republican congresswoman, 40, picked up her diploma Saturday from South Dakota State University, 18 years after dropping out of college to have a baby and help run her family’s farm. The political science major — who told us earlier this year she did most of her coursework while on flights between D.C. and her district — explained her long path to a degree in a speech at the graduation ceremony. “Curve balls are inevitably going to come your way, but your journey is determined by how you react,” she said, according to the Mitchell Republic. “I figured that I’d go back to school after a while, but then life happened.”

See video: Rep. Kristi Noem earns her college degree (2 Chambers), 5/7/12

Read earlier: Rep. Kristi Noem, America’s most powerful undergrad, on track to get college degree, 1/19/12