Donna Barber and LaDonna Watts

Donna Barber and LaDonna Watts

Donna Barber
Master of Arts in Organizational Management, Human Resources Management specialization, 2013

LaDonna Watts
Master of Business Administration, Organizational Leadership specialization, 2013

“We’ve had an amazing experience here at Ashford.”


Donna Barber
 and her daughter LaDonna Watts not only both attended online courses at Ashford University at the same time, but they graduated together and attended the commencement ceremony in Moline, IL, near Ashford’s Clinton campus, Donna at age 44 and LaDonna at age 24. This accomplishment attracted the attention of several news outlets, including the Chicago Tribune.  

“It’s surreal,” said LaDonna. “I guess when I heard my mom’s name and she was walking across the stage, then it hit me: we did it, we are here together.”

“I didn’t see this day coming,” added Donna, who earned her Master of Arts in Organizational Management, Human Resources Management specialization. “I was a teenage mom raised by my grandmother. I’ll always be a mom – I’ll be a mom for life – but I didn’t want that to be the end of my story.” She proudly noted that her older daughter also received her Master’s degree this year. “So the three of us receiving our Master’s degrees is phenomenal.”

Donna, who was the first to enroll at Ashford, was thrilled when LaDonna called to let her know she had enrolled as well. The support they were able to provide to one another soon proved to be invaluable. Said Donna, “She would call and say, ‘Mom, you have a paper due? Are you sleeping? Did you post your discussion?’ Or vice versa, I would call her. So we kind of had each other’s back.”

An executive assistant for a marketing firm, Donna would like to use her Master of Business Administration, Organizational Leadership specialization degree to make the event planning business she runs on the side her full-time career. “So I just wanted to get some leadership and organizational management skills under my belt so I’ll know exactly what I’m doing, and go forward from there.”

LaDonna, a recruiter for a network of several Chicago-area colleges, has career goals of her own in mind. “I want to go into working in the community with at-risk youth and inspire them about going back to school and getting an education. Everybody has a great idea, and it’s about finding your niche to make it a business venture.”

She credits her instructors for allowing her to flourish at Ashford. “Everyone has been awesome. We’ve had an amazing experience here at Ashford.” 

And it looks like this family’s connection to Ashford University won’t stop here. “I would like to keep it a family tradition,” said LaDonna. “I would definitely recommend Ashford to my son when that day comes and to any relatives who are looking to go back to school.”