Pattie Smith

Pattie Smith

Pattie Smith
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, 2014

“I am not merely going to exist. I am going to thrive!”


Pattie Smith had been a nurse for her entire professional life. It was a job she loved and that kept her fulfilled, stimulated, and constantly making a positive impact on people lives. Suddenly, she was stricken with Guillain Barre syndrome followed by a bout with interstitial pneumonia – leaving her with a lack of stamina so significant she was forced to start using a power wheelchair.

Perhaps most devastatingly, she was unable to continue to perform the duties her beloved job required. “It was quite an adjustment for a woman who was used to being a busy parent, wife, and nurse running the halls and at patients’ bedsides all night.”

With the blow of her illness and loss of her career, plus an empty nest due to her grown sons now in the military and busy making their own families, Pattie understandably felt her identity – and her happiness – slowly slipping away. “I was more or less languishing in my situation. I saw no reprieve from it.”

After several years of merely going through the motions and living on government assistance – during which time she also went through a painful divorce – something changed for Pattie. “I told myself what I had always told my sons when they were growing up: if I wanted my situation to get better, I had to make it happen myself.” So Pattie got to work figuring out what her options were to get a degree and make steps toward a second career. An online platform was the obvious choice for the sake of convenience and health limitations, and she chose Ashford for a good reason. “Each time I needed advice I was talking to the same person, instead of getting the next person in the call room whose line was open.”

Before she began classes in January of 2010, she had never written a paper, calling herself “an old lady who was terrified about whether I would survive going to college at my age.” Pattie pursued her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and completed her program in February 2014 at age 55. Her future plans are to go on to get a Master’s degree in the hopes of working as a mental health counselor with children who have behavior issues or are victims of abuse. “I will be a nurturer again,” explains Pattie. “I was a healer of physical wounds, and now I will be a healer of emotional ones. Sometimes those are the ones that need the most attention.”

As living proof that it’s never too late to get a degree, Pattie hopes to inspire her children and her grandchildren, as well as others like her. “I want to be an inspiration to those out there who are like me, who, because of a disability, are no longer able to work in their chosen field. You can learn a new career and flourish. You can learn new things and thrive if you are willing to do the work it takes to get there. Believe me, if I can do it, anyone can.

“I languished for so long, feeling worthless and depressed,” continues Pattie. “Ashford has brought a new purpose to my life. I was on the Dean’s list every semester. This accomplishment means the world to me because back in the dark ages when I was in school, I was an average or below average student.” Today, Pattie is a proud member of the Alpha Sigma Lambda National Honor Society.

Pattie calls Ashford one of the most rewarding experiences of her life. “All the time invested is worth every bit. With my situation and the emotional distress I have felt, this is the one thing I have clung to. I can see my future in counseling, and finally, after many years, I am me again; a vibrant and happy woman. And I like me again. Those feelings of worthlessness are replaced with feelings of value and confidence. I am not merely going to exist. I am going to thrive!”