Mom and Daughter Gear Up to Graduate Together from Ashford University on May 5
An extra special Mother's Day for two future graduates
Donna Barber and LaDonna Watts will have a lot to celebrate this Mother’s Day. On May 5, seven days prior to the national holiday, the duo will don caps and gowns, march to Pomp and Circumstance and receive their master’s degrees side-by-side at Ashford University’s graduation ceremony.
Donna Barber, a 44-year-old Richton Park resident, always dreamed of higher education but was held back by life circumstances. A teenage mom, she was unable to finish high school alongside her peers; instead she worked to support her children.
Years later, Barber received her GED diploma and pursued higher education. After completing her bachelor’s degree in applied behavioral sciences from Chicago’s National Louis University in 2011, she started working towards a master’s degree in organizational management at Ashford University.
“I wanted to set the right example for my children,” said Barber. “I didn’t have much guidance growing up and this was my opportunity to be a positive influence and encourage them to pursue their goals, no matter how unrealistic they may seem.”
She led by example. Only a couple of months into her program, Barber’s 24-year-old daughter, LaDonna Watts, followed in her mom’s footsteps and enrolled at Ashford University to pursue an MBA in organizational leadership.
With a bachelor’s degree from Illinois State University, Watts was working full-time as a recruiter for City Colleges of Chicago when her mom started taking classes at Ashford. Although she knew a postgraduate degree could advance her career, she felt her full schedule didn’t allow it. Seeing her mom successfully balance a career, school, family and community responsibilities inspired Watts.
“Growing up, I never realized how difficult life must have been for my mom,” said Watts. “She overcame many struggles raising us and making ends meet. Seeing her take on another major challenge to improve our lives moved me. I knew if she could do it, then I could at least give it a shot.”
The duo studied together, all while balancing careers, family life and heavy community involvement. In addition to working as an executive administrative assistant for a local marketing firm, Barber was taking care of LaDonna and her two other children, 13-year-old Devin Barber and 26-year-old Chiquita Watts, while actively participating in local organizations such as U.S.O.C. and the Free Spirit Ministry. Watts acted as a youth supervisor with the same organizations and volunteered with the South Cook County Girl Scouts.
Attending the university together motivated both women to succeed. They leaned on each other for support and celebrated academic accomplishments along the way.
“It wasn’t easy but having my mom share the challenge with me greatly enhanced my educational experience,” said Watts. “We pushed each other through difficult times, and I know she is a big reason behind my accomplishment. More than anything, I can’t wait to see my mom walk across that stage.”
This May, the duo will be attending the Ashford University graduation ceremony together. As non-traditional students, Barber and Watts look forward to meeting their professors and classmates face-to-face for the first time. An estimated 1,600 students from across the country and several foreign countries will travel to the Ashford University campus in Clinton, Iowa for commencement weekend, with more than 4,000 guests joining them for support.
“Who would have thought that both of us would have accomplished this incredible goal together?” said Barber. “I am just so proud of LaDonna. I couldn’t have asked for a better Mother’s Day gift than sharing this major achievement with my daughter.”
About Ashford University
Ashford University is defining the modern college experience by combining the heritage of a traditional campus with the flexibility and effectiveness of online learning. The University provides a vibrant learning community where high-quality programs and leading-edge technology create a dynamic, immersive and stimulating learning experience. The University offers practical and progressive associate's, bachelor's and master's degree programs online, as well as bachelor’s degree programs at its Clinton, Iowa, campus. Ashford University – where heritage meets innovation. For more information, please visit www.ashford.edu or call Shari Winet Rodriguez, vice president of Public Relations, at 858.513.9240 x2513.