Her doctoral chair’s support was key to graduation
By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
Famed poet Maya Angelou once said, “When people show you who they are, believe them.”
It is a piece of advice that Dr. Laurica Yancey took to heart throughout her time in her Doctor in Organizational Leadership with an Emphasis in Higher Education Administration program, which she recently completed in the College of Doctoral Studies at Grand Canyon University.
Yancey’s dissertation chair, Dr. Theodus Luckett, regularly reassured Yancey that she could make it through the program and that he would offer any support he could to help her get there. Despite that, it took almost quitting the program for Yancey to fully understand how much he meant it.
Early in Yancey’s doctoral journey, her father was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. Not only was she working full time while doing her doctorate, but now she assumed the responsibility of her father’s caretaker, which often required 6-8 hours a day to take him to a VA hospital for treatment.
Then, in 2019, Yancey’s mother was diagnosed with dementia, which meant more caretaking responsibilities while Yancey was tackling her struggles with anxiety and depression.
“It was a very overwhelming, stressful and tiring situation,” she said. “Throughout it all, Dr. Luckett was just so inspirational and so supportive. Even if it was just saying a prayer, he would always reach out.”
With so much going on in her personal and family life, the concept of completing her program seemed to be drifting out of reach. But Luckett’s faith in Yancey’s capabilities never wavered.
“I’ll never forget when I told him that I was going to quit,” she recalled. “He had said, as only Dr. Luckett could, with a big smile on his face, ‘You’re not. You’re going to finish, and I’m going to do what I can do to support you. I got your back.’”
It was all part of the role Luckett gladly takes on – helping his learners find success.
“As a chair, it’s my duty, it’s my obligation to lead the learner in a positive way and be supportive through that process,” he said. “It takes a lot to be able to do what she did. You have your doctoral work, which is rigorous, then of course you have your full-time job, which is rigorous, and then on top of that taking care of your parents, and not just one parent but two parents.
“It’s just a very hard thing, and I was not going to allow her to quit.”
Luckett knew it was possible for Yancey to help her family without giving up on her doctoral dream. It was just going to take time, compassion and flexibility.
“As a chair, you have to be open, and you can’t be so rigid to where you’re not even flexible or where learners feel uncomfortable talking to you,” he said. “She has endured and persevered, and I’m so proud of her.”
Yancey’s father succumbed to his illness earlier this year. Coping with the loss was a challenge for her, but she continued her program until its completion.
Whether it be answering a phone call in the middle of the night to help Yancey recover lost computer documents or checking in to see how she was doing with her responsibilities outside the program, Luckett always was there to support his learner any way that he could.
And the amazing thing is that it happened even though they never met in person — Yancey lives in North Carolina, Luckett in Texas. But the pair created a mentorship and friendship that will impact Yancey’s life forever.
“I wouldn’t have made it if it wasn’t for Dr. Luckett,” she said. “He was an example in terms of I’m paying it forward to other people because of what he’s done for me.
“I can’t see myself not helping others because he showed me who he was, and he was a helper and a mentor. I definitely aspire to do the same thing for others.”
She has left a similar impact on Luckett, re-emphasizing his passion for helping people. He sees her drive and determination as a wonderful example for other learners.
“It’s been a great journey,” he said, “and this is just the beginning.”
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected].
GCU Today: Faculty Focus: Dr. Theodus Luckett III