Online student combines love of family, learning
Editor’s note: Reprinted from the April issue of GCU Magazine. To read the digital version of the magazine, click here.
By Mike Kilen
Monica Floyd always wanted to get a college degree.
She began her studies in 1983 but got married two years later, had two children and never went back. Her family came first.
Three decades later, she said to herself, “It’s my time. I am ready.”
Her plans almost were thwarted again when she enrolled at Grand Canyon University in 2015. Her family was moving from Georgia to South Carolina, two grandchildren moved in, she took care of her elderly parents, and her husband fell ill and needed her care.
“But I had made up my mind that it was my time to begin, so I didn’t let anything distract me,” she said.
Six-and-a-half years later, the 58-year-old has earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Christian ministry and is in the midst of studies for a graduate certificate in mental health and wellness – with the goal of pursuing a doctorate.
“I’m interested in giving back and helping others, so I’m adding to the education I already have so I can be more efficient in helping others,” Floyd said.
The Blythewood, South Carolina, woman is an example of thousands of lifelong learners who every year log on to study at GCU from around the world.
“I think a lot of people just do it to open doors that have never been open to them before,” said Rick Holbeck, Executive Director of Online Full-Time Faculty. “And there are students who just love learning. The more they learn, the more they want to learn.”
Floyd had long been passionate about ministry, but she wanted to add knowledge to what she acquired in pastoral training and as an associate pastor of International Family of Faith, a post she held until 2021.
She also founded the nonprofit Recovered Women through Christ in 2017, assisting women with addiction and domestic problems and taking them into her five-bedroom home. She offers counseling, job and educational assistance, and referrals to social service agencies.
“I believe in an open door, an open hand and an open heart,” she said of the organization, which stopped taking in women during the pandemic but continues its outreach.
“We believe in a one-step program. The one step is believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. God has given each of us a measure of faith, so when we put our faith and trust in Him, we are no longer in bondage to things like addiction and sin.”
Floyd also is an example of the challenges of lifelong learners. They have a full life outside their studies. How they do it is a constant marvel.
She had few computer skills when she started her undergraduate degree.
“I worked with her day-by-day to help her learn how to format her work properly so she could complete her assignments. She not only completed her bachelor’s degree, she graduated magna cum laude,” GCU counselor Elizabeth Catricala said.
Floyd is grateful.
“People like Miss Liz are amazing. Every university needs a Miss Liz,” she said. “I love my GCU family. GCU wants students to succeed, so you get the support.”
Her motto became “start slow but a strong finish.”
She couldn’t celebrate her undergraduate Commencement because of the COVID-19 outbreak in spring of 2020 but quickly went to work on a master’s degree.
Three weeks later, her father became ill and died.
“I continued on,” she said, “with lots of prayer and faith in God. I worked daily on a schedule, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
“I take care of my mother. I am a family woman, a married woman, so my first ministry is to my husband.”
That means her days went something like this:
Up at 6 a.m., she got her mother bathed and breakfast made, took her 14-year-old grandchild to school, threw in laundry and then sat down for classes and study by 9 a.m. for a couple of hours, what she calls “my time.”
Then it was lunch, school pickup, dinner, cleaning up, study. Day by day that schedule led to a master’s degree in October 2021.
Holbeck is constantly amazed by the stories of perseverance he hears in his roles at GCU, which also includes teaching graduate-level courses.
“It is a lot of people who are just trying to improve their lives in some way,” he said. “We did see a big uptick of that at the beginning of the pandemic.”
Many are GCU undergrads who seek graduate education in their chosen field or have found new avenues of interest during the pursuit of an undergraduate degree.
“This was a lifelong goal for me,” Floyd said of a bachelor’s degree that propelled her to more education. “I had decided in my mind that nothing can stop me.”
And there’s no stopping now. She has enrolled in certificate programs that allow learners to add foundational knowledge to areas of interest.
Lifelong learning? She’s sold.
“Times change and new information comes out,” she said. “It is important to have that information at hand, to gain the knowledge and apply it to everyday life.”
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.
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