phyllis asinyanbi headshot

I’m a self-taught writer, but I’ve honed my skills at Ashford.

Phyllis Smith Asinyanbi


While freelancing as an online writer, Phyllis Smith Asinyanbi often felt like she was all alone on her career path. But when her close circle – including her son and her best friend – heard her speak about her aspirations, they spoke up and encouraged her to pursue her dreams. Suddenly, she didn’t feel quite so alone. And then, when she discovered Ashford University, she found a whole community of support for her ambition to help adults learn English.

“[My son] said, ‘Mom, you’re not too old to go back to school. If you want to teach, you can teach. You taught me how to read and many other things. You’re one of the smartest people I know.’ Pondering over those words helped me decide to enroll,” she says.

Unlike other online education programs she tried that followed a more traditional model of multiple classes at the same time, the 5-week intensive courses at Ashford fit with her life as a single mom. Plus, she says Ashford was the first school she found that offered the English Language Learner Studies bachelor’s online.

She was surprised when she got an “A” in her first class, but it gave her the confidence to continue. And as she got further into her education, she was also surprised how the coursework impacted her professional life.

“My writing experience has been mostly as a citizen journalist, writing news, political, entertainment, and human interest stories,” she says. “One of my greatest accomplishments was winning a semi-monthly writing prize for a piece on the Boston bombing and another recognition as ‘Anchor of the Week’ by an online news website. I’m a self-taught writer, but I’ve honed my skills at Ashford.”

Ashford instructors, advisors, and tutors picked up where her independent study left off. Phyllis particularly connected with her academic advisor and Dr. Holly Wilson, Program Chair for the BA in English Language Learner Studies.

“Dr. Wilson is an excellent scholar, teacher, and mentor,” she says. “Each time I have reached out to her with questions, she has given me detailed responses, based on her wealth of experience.”

Now Phyllis is expanding her educational network and paying it forward as a member of the Online Education Club and by volunteering in a community-based adult ESL class. She says she also plans to volunteer as a CHAMPS mentor. Most importantly, though, she hopes to inspire the person who helped her start her journey at Ashford University

“I hope to inspire my son and anyone who is an aspiring college student, especially those who are over 40,” she says. “If I can persevere and do this after other unsuccessful attempts, others can too.”

Phyllis is anticipating graduation in October 2017 – hopefully magna cum laude – but is already reaping the rewards of her education.

“Personally, becoming a student has been meaningful as it has given me more confidence,” she says. “I’m an autodidact who loves to learn but not having a college degree was a barrier to formal teaching. Obtaining one has already afforded me multiple opportunities.”

Questions? Request Information