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I have the confidence to compete on any level in business management.


After her children were grown, Debra Stewart of Laura, OH felt confident that she could finally finish her education. She started out in life as an orphan on an Indian reservation, and life had presented her with many challenges. She worked very hard to earn an education, but it often took second place to her job and her family. In her fifties, she was ready at last to complete her Bachelor's degree.

Then, life dealt her a whole new challenge. "My husband was diagnosed with heart problems and dementia," Debra explains. "I wasn’t sure that I could manage the added responsibility and expense of going to school. I knew I could not attend a traditional learning environment because I did not want to spend too much time away from my husband - I had become his caregiver."

So she made a smart move and contacted Ashford University's then senior enrollment advisor, Margie Tlapa. "The woman I spoke to was so kind. I told her my story, and I knew that she understood that I had just one chance to complete my degree given the time and resources available for me." Debra appreciated the guidance she received including making admissions and financial aid as simple as possible. "I trusted her, and she guided me through the process, and was there for me for every question and uncertainty."

Once at Ashford, Debra went above and beyond and excelled as a student, and it shows in the results she produced. After she earned her Master of Business Administration, she says, “I was promoted in my job. I have the confidence to compete on any level in business management." As the Director of Wellness of St Leonard Senior Living Community, she has been able to facilitate a groundbreaking new community wellness initiative for her employer.

Debra then went on to earn a second Master’s degree from Ashford – the Master of Arts in Teaching and Learning with Technology – and in 2012, the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU) awarded its highest graduate achievement honor to Debra: The Graduate Recognition for Excellence, Achievement, and Talent (GREAT) Award.

But she is not stopping there. She is currently enrolled in a Doctor of Psychology program at University of the Rockies, specializing in both Educational Leadership and Health and Wellness Psychology. She has also begun teaching both online and in traditional classrooms, has started a company that offers corporate wellness programs to organizations, and has written a book – "Learning Styles Inventory Tool" – which explores new approaches for advanced dementia care. Further, Debra has begun to accept speaking engagements at assisted living and health care associations.

Although her husband passed away in 2011, her goals have not wavered. "Ashford University changed my life! I feel that my education has helped me to serve the marginalized at a level that I never thought possible," says Debra. Clearly, she is living proof of the incredible accomplishments that can come from hard work and determination!

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