If everything in life that you accomplished was easy, everyone else would be doing it, too.
Dr. Tina Lee Twilleger
Ashford doctoral degree recipient and adjunct professor Dr. Tina Lee Twilleger knows when it comes to Newton’s first law — a body in motion stays in motion — it applies to both the body and the mind. Between school and work, she’s been exercising both for decades. As an avid runner, personal trainer, fitness instructor, and dedicated professor, staying fit and helping others find success in life has always been Tina’s passion.
The long and winding road from earning her bachelor’s degree to completing grad school began in Hilo at the University of Hawaii, eventually culminating in graduating with her master’s degree in health sciences from Colorado State University in Pueblo.
However, Tina knew that master’s degree wasn’t the end of her journey. When she graduated with it in 2014, she had her hands full working four jobs while raising her young son Steftyn. But she wanted a way to pull all the pieces together — both from her career experience in the field of exercise and her many years in school.
Coming from a family of nurses, she’d always mulled over the idea of going into the health care field. But her mom, who had 40 years of experience as a nurse and understood her daughter’s fervor for fitness, encouraged Tina to stay on the preventative side.
She began looking into getting her doctorate and discovered PhD in Organizational Development and Leadership.
Tina enrolled in the program, and it was love at first class.
“It was so cool,” she says. “It was everything I had studied over the past six years, but at a doctoral level.”
Her goal was to earn her doctorate so she could someday teach at a university full-time* and be able to make an even bigger impact in helping those in her community live healthier lifestyles.
However, as a student who had formerly only attended classes in-person, Tina admits being skeptical about an online college at first.
“I had never taken an online class before and was scared,” she recalls. “But when I took that first one, I was hooked. I had the best support from my professors and absolutely loved Dr. Irene Stein. She is awesome and was a big part of making Ashford feel like such a family-friendly environment.”
While working toward her PhD, Tina also became an Ashford adjunct professor, where she got a chance to get to know AU’s undergrad students — this time from a faculty perspective.
“It may be because many times they’re older, but Ashford students are just so involved and always seem to have it together,” she notes. “The relationship feels so much more professional.”
As if she wasn’t busy enough, Tina also gave birth to her second child, a daughter named Teashtyn, while in the doctoral program.
“There were times when I felt like I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel,” she admits. “I remember working full-time teaching for Ashford, had a brand new baby, and getting my doctorate, and just thinking there was no way I could do it for another two years. But that’s when I just had to buckle down and focus on what I really wanted in life.”
She encourages other students to keep going no matter how challenging it gets.
“Yes, there will be uncertainties, but you can get through them,” Tina says. “If everything in life that you accomplished was easy, everyone else would be doing it, too.”
Her hard work paid off. Within days of getting final word that she had been conferred her doctorate, Tina accepted her dream job as an assistant professor at one of her earlier alma maters — the University of Colorado in Pueblo. While there, she’s going to be heading up the development of a committee focused on fostering health for CSU students.
“I had so much background in exercise-based training, and now they’re all interconnected to where I just love going to work every day,” Tina says. “Whether it’s teaching students, doing a group fitness class, or even hopping onto a Zoom meeting to give someone personal health coaching, it’s so nice to be able to help people every day and hear their success stories.”
This emphasis on health has rubbed off on her family as well. Both her son and daughter enjoy working out with her, and the entire family hikes and camps as often as possible.
“You have to teach your kids how to be healthy and how to make healthy food choices by modeling it for them,” say Tina.
With the whole family at home due to the recent coronavirus pandemic, Tina and her husband Stefan (whom Tina says was her biggest supporter while in school) enjoyed the fact that their children got to spend a lot more time moving and getting outdoors during the day.
Next on the family’s to-do list is hitting the open road for a long, much-needed getaway to celebrate Tina’s doctorate. They plan on taking their recently purchased RV to explore the Oregon coast for a nature adventure.
* An online degree from Ashford University does not lead to immediate teacher licensure in any state.