Family, doctoral chair are motivation for learner

June 08, 2021 / by / 1 Comment
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Christina Solares is working toward her Ph.D. in General Psychology.

Fifth in a series highlighting learners in the College of Doctoral Studies. 

By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau

Program after program, Christina Solares keeps finding herself back at Grand Canyon University.

After being introduced to her future alma mater by a counselor who came to her Catholic high school, Solares completed her bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology and Exercise and master’s in Mental Health and Wellness at GCU.

Now, the mother of two, a 7-year-old boy and a 2-year-old girl, finds herself inching toward the finish line of a Ph.D. in General Psychology from the College of Doctoral Studies.

All within an eight-year span.

“It’s been challenging, for sure, but it’s also so rewarding,” Solares, who works as a special needs coach, said during the residency last month. “This is almost like the best time of my life just because it’s the most challenging time in my life, academically.”

Academics weren’t the only challenges she faced at the time; she also had to endure personal struggles that would leave her burned out on multiple occasions. But, despite it all, her love for her family kept her going.

“I’m hoping in the long run that they (her children) will understand what I’ve done because a lot of this is for them,” she said. “If they go on to college, I want to be able to at least help provide for them. I want to be able to show them no matter what life throws at you, you can still do it.”

Her mother, who is a stage 4 breast cancer survivor, gave Solares an example of what perseverance looks like.

“We always have the joke of she’s the cat with nine lives,” she said. “She was at death’s door quite a bit.”

Another motivating factor is the bond Solares has formed with her dissertation chair, Dr. Tetiana McLemore.

“The chair that I have, she’s the only person I can think about when I come back to this doctoral program,” she said. “She has pushed me so hard and she’s so supportive, and that is probably the number one thing that us doctoral students would ever want.

“We need our support system. I’ll never forget her. My biggest memory is always going to be her.”

The bonds have helped shape her dissertation topic – researching the effects of the support system for students while pursuing a degree.

“It’s about utilizing my degree to help the community,” she said.

Her secret to success?

“It’s just mind over matter,” she said. “It’s a way of managing your time, making sure you have a positive support group and just keeping faith.”

Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected].

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Related content:

GCU Today: Helping others is key for veteran in doctoral program

GCU Today: Education never gets old for 75-year-old learner

GCU Today: An attorney, a single mom … and now a doctorate

GCU Today: She’s fashioning an inspiring example for her family

GCU Today: Doctoral learners make grand return to campus


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  1. Tetiana McLemore

    Tina is one of the most hard-working and resilient learners I know. I am so blessed to have an opportunity to be a part of her doctoral journey. Thank you, Tina, for your kind words.

    Jun.08.2021 at 2:08 pm
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