Brittnaè Jacobs was in the midst of her master’s program three years ago when she went into labor.
Then her mother, Regina, reminded her of a pressing matter: “Well, don’t you have a paper due tonight?” she asked.
Her mom's words resonated with Brittnaè, who finished her assignment before delivering her son, Ezra, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Helper of Life in the Bible,” Brittnaè smiled after explaining her son’s name.
Young Ezra won't need to look far for learning tips or advice if he decides to pursue a master's or doctoral degree.
These days, Regina and Brittnaè have formed a firm support system for each other as they complete their residencies together in Grand Canyon University's College of Doctoral Studies.
“It’s an amazing journey,” said Regina, who was born in New York before moving to South Carolina with her parents. “And the experience has been all positive. We have gotten the help that we needed. We have been encouraged that everything has been positive. It has just been a blessing. GCU has been a blessing.”
Added Brittnaè: “I love everything about GCU.”
Regina is pursuing a doctorate in Organizational Leadership and Development, while Brittnaè is following the same path with an emphasis in K-12 Leadership.
Their respective pursuits do not allow them to study on the same topic, but “it’s so beneficial,” Brittnaè said. “We can lean on each other and encourage each other.”
“And I try to be that kind of person she can lean on,” Regina added. “I try to motivate her because she is a single mom. It is hard being a single parent, and I just try to encourage her because I know she wants a lot for her son, as any parent would. So I just try to be there to encourage her the best that I can.”
Brittnaè nearly came to tears pondering the lengthy route her mother took to reaching the highest level of education.
“I’m grown up now, and the woman still amazes me,” said Brittnaè. She added that motherhood gave her a greater appreciation for what her mother is accomplishing.
Regina postponed her doctoral pursuits to help raise two daughters and a son while working in a human resources department for many years.
“I was working full time, and they had extracurricular activities,” Regina said.
But Brittnaè emphasized that her mother never missed any of their events.
“My sister and I were in pageants growing up and were cheerleaders, said Brittnaè, whose sister, Chelsea, graduated from the College of Charleston and serves as the college's associate director for the Center for Excellence in Peer Education. “We were always doing something, so we didn’t give her a break at all.”
But once Regina's children grew up, returning to college became a possibility.
“This was her opportunity to do what she wanted to do years ago,” Brittnaè said.
Regina and Brittnaè reunited academically to pursue their master’s degrees online at a different university. Regina adjusted quickly to the modernization of studying and preparing for exams.
“I’m pretty good with technology, so it wasn't hard at all,” Regina said in a confident tone. “I'm pretty structured.”
Regina earned her master’s degree in Human Resource Management in 2022, and Brittnaè completed her requirements in Education/Curriculum.
“We literally walked together,” Brittnaè said of the graduation ceremonies.
Pursuing a doctorate at GCU did not occur organically. After earning their master’s degrees, Regina and Brittnaè took a one-month break to assess their futures.
Brittnaè believed they should pursue their doctorates. Only this time, Brittnaè enrolled at GCU after talking to Kenesha Johnson, a friend from their days at the University of South Carolina who spoke favorably about GCU after earning his doctoral degree in Organizational Leadership.
“Maybe it’s the Christian beliefs behind it,” Brittnaè said. “It was just something extra. And that drew me to this school.”
Regina enrolled at another university but did not like it so followed her daughter to GCU.
“I feel that this was meant to happen,” Regina said. “It was meant for us to be here together on our journey. And the Lord makes no mistakes.”
Regina believes, based on her experience in human resources, she can make a positive change after earning her doctorate.
“I want to make a difference,” she said. “I am going to get my Ph.D., and I am going to be able to make some changes and do the right thing.”
Brittnaè, meanwhile, believes she is a teacher at heart and would love to guide students outside the classroom.
“I want to create a group or afterschool program where children can come, and they can just have pure relationships with other individuals where they can get help when they need it,” Brittnaè said. “It could be social, emotional, or it could be your schoolwork.
“I just want kids to have a safe place and, yes, that is school. But we also get to teach academics while we are in here.”
So, who is the better student?
Brittnaè pointed to her mother. “Probably Mommy,” Brittnaè said.
“Right now, it’s me,” Regina said. “Definitely.”