olivia rastello

Online education allows adults to have more flexibility in their lives.

Olivia Rastello


Like many students, Olivia Rastello enrolled in college shortly after high school. But life soon threw her a curveball that threatened to derail her goal of higher education.

“I was diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease in my early 20s,” Olivia explained. “When I was first diagnosed, I was very ill and needed to medically withdraw from the college that I was attending.”

Despite that setback, Olivia kept her eyes on the prize and continued to return to college off and on for a few years. Eventually, it became clear that a traditional campus-based college might not be the best option for Olivia, as she learned how to manage her disease.

“After some research, I found Ashford, and I thought that it was a perfect fit for my education,” Olivia said.

Looking to pursue a degree that would allow her to help others, she enrolled in Ashford’s Bachelor of Arts in Health and Wellness degree program. She also quickly discovered Ashford’s Office of Student Access and Wellness which specializes in helping students who have disabilities and medical challenges that could impede their education.

“I was assisted by the Office of Student Access and Wellness when my disease was flaring,” Olivia said. “I was able to communicate my medical concerns and receive reasonable accommodations so that I was able to successfully complete my assignments.”

With a few accommodations, the final obstacles standing between Olivia and her education were removed. She flourished at Ashford University. Olivia was invited to join three academic honor societies: Golden Key International Honour Society, Delta Alpha Pi International Honor Society, and Alpha Sigma Lambda. She contributed articles to the College of Health, Human Services, and Science’s Health Promotion Quarterly newsletter. The flexibility of Ashford’s online modality also enabled Olivia to pursue learning opportunities outside of the classroom.

“Taking courses online allowed me to gain more experience in my field before graduating,” Olivia said. “For example, I was able to complete an internship at the American Diabetes Association in Chicago last year while taking courses.”

In 2016, Olivia finished her degree and graduated from Ashford. That milestone capped off a journey that Olivia calls “an encouraging and empowering experience.” Her story may be an inspiring experience as well.

“I hope that if people see that I could accomplish my degree, with inflammatory bowel disease, that it would inspire others with disabilities to complete their degrees, too. I hope that my example provides reassurance to others that college is attainable for anyone, with or without a disability,” Olivia said. “I also hope to inspire individuals who are considering returning to college. I personally feel that online education allows adults to have more flexibility in their lives. It allows adults to gain professional experience while pursuing their educational goals.”

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