My Ashford | Persistence Creates Expertise

millie jones ashford writing center

Something interesting is happening at Ashford University. You’ve probably seen it. Students, faculty, and staff are sharing their #MyAshfordU stories, and we’ve loved hearing the impact education has on your lives. The latest to share her story is Millie Jones, Lead Writing & Learning Specialist in Ashford’s Writing Center.


At the age of 32, I decided to go back to school. I hadn’t been in school for more than 10 years, and I was excited—but mostly nervous and insecure. I had already been turned down from two graduate schools I’d applied to, and I assumed it was some mistake that I’d been accepted to this one. I had a clear vision of the new career I wanted, and I was determined to take the steps needed to get there. But this didn’t stop me from having concerns: it had been a long time since I was in school, and I was older than most of the students in my class. Also, I had a computer, but barely knew how to use it, and compared to other students, I didn’t feel as smart as them. Did I really belong here?

How Do I Persist in Education?

In my very first class, the instructor told us her ideas about how to get through school, all the way to getting your PhD. She said, “You show up, and you do the work.” She explained further that it really didn’t matter if you don’t fully understand what you are reading or how to get the assignments done. If you show up to every class and do all of the work, it will begin to make sense. She told us that some courses would seem impossible and other students may seem to have it all together, but if you just keep going, little by little, you’ll get where you want to be. She said, “Education isn’t about how smart you are; it’s about persistence. Persistence creates expertise.”

That was my lightbulb moment. I was insecure because I didn’t think I knew enough to be a graduate student. But I knew I had the determination to take the steps necessary to get to my new career. Turns out, I had everything I needed to get my degree, and even continue on to get a PhD if I wanted. This realization was what carried me through my first graduate degree, my second graduate degree, my first teaching job, and even now through every project, presentation, or challenge I’m faced with at work. I show up, and I do the work. And from there, I learn.

How Do I Go Beyond the Minimum?

This philosophy doesn’t mean that I do the bare minimum. My addition to this mantra of “showing up and doing the work” is that if I’m going to do it and I’m going to put my name on it, I want to be proud of what I’ve done. This method also doesn’t mean that I always get it right. I learned by showing up and doing the work, and understanding that persistence is sometimes more important than intelligence, that if I just keep going, I will get better. So even now, I seek guidance from coworkers, get feedback from others on my work, and collaborate with my peers to create stronger and more impressive work. And with this outreach, I continue to move forward in my career.

It took me some time to realize I do belong here at grad school and at work. Sometimes, it just takes showing up and doing the work to show us what we can accomplish. I learned not to compare myself to others—that most of them felt like a fraud, too. And to just keep going.

How has an instructor had an impact on your learning? Share your story with this post online and tell us what you learned from that experience. #MyAshfordU #instructorimpact



Written by Millie Jones, Writing Center

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