An attorney, a single mom … and now a doctorate

June 03, 2021 / by / 0 Comment
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Shaina Thompson is working toward a Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

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

By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau

The urge to balance her career while also caring for her son was the driving force behind Shaina Thompson’s decision to work toward her Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology in the College of Doctoral Studies.

As an attorney, Thompson knows the struggle that comes with a heavy workload while simultaneously taking care of a young child. She hopes to use her degree to establish more family-friendly policies in nonprofit law firms.

“For me, as a single mother, family-friendly policies are very important to me,” said Thompson, who just completed her second residency last month. “It’s about balancing being mommy and being an attorney that’s trying to do a lot of things at my law firm.

“It’s difficult to have a place that understands that everyone’s life is not very cookie cutter, and finding an institute that will provide support  for that and encouragement is very important.”

Getting her Ph.D. at Grand Canyon University was always on the Georgia learner’s bucket list, even before completing her Doctor of Law degree in 2015. As a praise and worship singer for multiple different local churches, she was connected with church leaders who had attended GCU as students. After she had a few years of experience in the field, the decision to go back to school wasn’t difficult.

“The thing that was so pulling to me (about GCU) was the ability to do it online but then also being able to come to residency and being able to interact with faculty,” she said. “Although it’s been difficult, it’s been a rewarding experience.”

It has been a journey of personal growth for Thompson and has been especially apparent in the time between her first and second residency. It’s a testament to how far she has come.

“The most impactful moment, I think, is that this time we laughed way more than in the first residency,” she said. “It’s definitely good to laugh because that laughter keeps you from crying in some instances.

“What we’re doing is really important. It’s hard work, and there are times where there’s disappointment. Just being able to crack a joke here and there just to ease the tension is very impactful for me.”

Adding an additional responsibility to her plate hasn’t been the easiest to manage, but it’s something Thompson hopes will leave a positive example on her son, Kian.

“Anytime that I’m working on papers, it’s hard because sometimes he’ll come and ask me, ‘Hey, mom, will you come and watch ‘Paw Patrol’ with me?’ and I have to tell him I’m doing homework,” she said. “Sometimes it makes me feel a little guilty, but then also I feel he sees that I’m working hard and sometimes he’ll just come and give me a hug and tell me ‘Mommy, I’m proud of you.’

“I’m not doing this for myself. … I’m definitely doing this for him so that he can know that regardless of any obstacles that come his way, regardless of the cards that are dealt to him, if he wants to do something and if he works hard, he can obtain it.”

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

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Related content:

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

GCU Today: Doctoral learners make grand return to campus

GCU Today: Residency friendship turns into business partnership

GCU Today: Doctoral learner, GCE board member wins award

GCU TodayMom wouldn’t rest until daughter attained her dream


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