Doctoral learner passes program … then gives birth
By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
Ashley Longoria has never been the kind of person to let anything prevent her from chasing her dreams, even something as life-changing as adding another member to her growing family.
Four years ago, a mere month after the birth of her second child, Longoria began working toward her Doctor of Education degree in Organizational Leadership at Grand Canyon University. The path to the end of an already challenging level of education was not easy for Longoria, who experienced numerous life changes on the road to the degree she had long desired.
During those four years, Longoria had to deal with the unexpected loss of her father, a divorce and custody battle, a new marriage and a promotion from Assistant Principal at Shadow Ridge High School in Surprise to Principal at Dysart Elementary School in El Mirage. When times would get hard, she would remember some words of encouragement she received during the second residency of her doctoral program.
“The professors were talking about how through this program, oftentimes people do get divorced or things happen in life and they either decide to keep going through the program or that’s what ends up breaking them,” said Longoria, who also got her Master of Education degree in Education Administration from GCU. “I think having those words of encouragement, even though I thought, ‘Oh, that won’t be me,’ once that did start to happen I was like, ‘OK, other people have gone through this and made it, so I can do it, too.’”
But passing her dissertation wasn’t her only challenge. Just nine days after successfully defending her dissertation, Longoria gave birth to her third child, a son named Declan. It wasn’t exactly how she planned it, but it worked out.
“My original plan was to be done in three years, but after that, as I got closer to my due date, I thought I was going to be able to walk last April,” she said. “But then things just kind of took longer than they were supposed to.”
After finding out she was pregnant, the possibility of slowing her progress toward her degree wasn’t even a consideration for Longoria. Instead, she asked for her dissertation defense to be moved up as much as possible so she could do it before the baby arrived.
“If they wouldn’t have worked with me, I would have been defending in probably mid-June, maybe late June,” she said. “I had always heard horror stories of doctorate programs where people just give up because it’s just too hard, and I’m the type of person that if you tell me I can’t do something or you tell me that other people struggle, then I’m going to put my mind to it and do it no matter what.”
That drive did not go to waste — Longoria’s dissertation defense was successful. It’s an achievement she says she couldn’t have reached on her own.
“I think the program was the best program I could have picked, to go through GCU, because it allowed me to have all those life changes while still pursuing the dream that I wanted,” she said. “If I wasn’t at GCU, I wouldn’t have been able to do that.”
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected].