Laura McDowell

I'm one of eight kids, and the first to graduate from anything.

Laura McDowell


One of the things Laura McDowell of Manila, Arkansas loves about Ashford is that, even though she did all her coursework online from home, she still got to visit Ashford's campus in Clinton, Iowa, to receive her Master's hood, and to experience the tradition of commencement. She was so excited to attend the ceremonies, she drove all the way from Arkansas to Iowa for the event. "I am so looking forward to this," she said once she arrived on the Clinton campus, "I'm impressed! It's an old campus, but it has a lot of pizzazz."

At first, after more than four years away from university, the choice to restart her studies at the graduate level was intimidating to McDowell. The switch from a physical classroom to an online environment seemed especially daunting at first. "I was so afraid of the online discussion posts," she says, "and being critiqued by my fellow students." What got her past that fear? "Total determination," she says. "I was just determined. I kept thinking about Clinton, about coming to graduation. I'm one of eight kids, and the first to graduate from anything. So this was a goal that really meant a lot to me.

"You know, once I got past the first couple courses, I got over my fear and it got so much easier. I realized that these discussions really made me think a lot more than if I had just read some textbook. Having a conversation with different people, I was forced to learn more." In addition, McDowell cites the support she received from her instructors who helped her succeed in her course on the legal environment. "I've learned that you've got to motivate yourself. But even more importantly, you've got to talk to people. Because other people can always motivate you."

McDowell works at Denso Manufacturing Arkansas as a Quality Specialist in the Engineering department. Though she loves learning for its own sake, she also sees the value her new Master's degree will bring to her career. "This degree will allow me to grow into the management side of work, rather than just focusing solely on engineering. I want to get out of the technical stuff and get involved with people, to deal with personalities instead of machines." She also says that, as she nears retirement, she would like to teach a course online — something for which her Master's degree now qualifies her.

And what about her plans for more education, maybe even another degree? "This is it!" she exclaims. "I'm doing no more. For now. Of course, my family jokes that in four years, I'll go get my PhD. But seriously, I'm ready to be a full-time grandma. I love volunteering for the Cub Scouts for my grandson."

When we spoke with her a year after graduation, Laura, said she was still living in Manila and working with the Cub Scouts. She's a Supplier Engineer at Denso Manufacturing, and said she uses her degree every day in both her work and her time with the Scouts. Laura is also following through with her goal of becoming an educator – she's in contact with her local college and hopes to teach an online class in the future.

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