Misty Manning

I would have never thought that I would finally be in a position to achieve my dreams.


For many Ashford University students, online learning is a convenience. For Misty Manning, it was a necessity.

Throughout her life, the mother of six has battled Vascular Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a rare and life-threatening medical condition that has made her blood vessels and organs prone to tearing and left her unable to lift more than three pounds. Ehlers-Danlos is genetic, and Misty said it had gotten progressively worse in recent years.

“Sometimes it causes pain that is so intense that it seems as though that pain is all that exists,” she said. “Seeing through that pain to get things done is often very difficult.”

Misty never wanted her condition to stand in the way of her academic success. From her home in Kentucky, she enrolled at Ashford University, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Social Science online in 2012 and then returning for her MBA with a specialization in Human Resources Management.

“I have had to change my entire life because of my [illness]. Ashford University offered an online education program that suited my needs, and an accreditation that not all online schools have, she said. “If not for online classes, I would not have been able to obtain my degree.”

At Ashford, Misty’s high marks earned her an invitation to join the Golden Key International Honour Society. She also discovered the “personal touch” that many distance learners don’t expect when they enroll at an online university. Misty’s advisors would call her to ask how she was recovering from surgeries or to give her information she missed while taking a leave of absence.

As she worked toward finishing her MBA, Misty thought about how she hoped her experience would inspire her children – two daughters, two sons, and two stepsons. Her family, she said, gave her all the support she needed to stay the course.

“I have always taught [my kids] that an education is an invaluable thing; something which can help them to reach their own goals and dreams in life,” she said. “They have also learned that it is important to never give up simply because you run into obstacles which make your path difficult.”

While her dream of becoming a lifelong learner had come true, Misty was dealt another physical blow in early 2015, when a car accident left her hospitalized with a severe spinal injury. She was told the recovery time would force her to miss Ashford’s spring commencement ceremony.

Despite the setback, Misty remained upbeat that she’d accomplished the goal she set for herself years ago, and she hoped her perseverance could inspire others.

“No obstacle is big enough to prevent someone from learning if they wish to grow in their education.”

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