Photos by Ralph Freso
Studying for a doctoral degree right along with your significant other may seem far-fetched. For eight students participating in Grand Canyon University’s doctoral residency, it's a reality.
Four couples participated in residency this month at San Marcos Resort in Chandler.
"This residency was special because we can't recall when we've had four married couples in one residency," said Nicholas Markette, Assistant Dean of of the College of Doctoral Studies.. "It's fun because they have each other as accountability partners and they understand the challenges they are facing together."
Tyrone Olive and Fayola “Asha” Dozithee Olive, one of four married couples participating in residency, are going through the program “lacing up their boots together.”
“I think everyone starts their relationship with dating and all the cute things — we started our relationship in a war zone,” said Fayola.” We found our way in the most difficult of times to support each other and make sure we were OK.”
The Olives have been together since they were 19 years old, finding love in the Army when they served in Iraq. The military brought the couple to Arizona, leading them to GCU.
Fayola and Tyrone are in their second phase of residency for their doctoral program in organizational leadership with an emphasis on organizational development.
“Everything we do, we find a sense of purpose and push each other. To us, this is like a mission,” said Fayola.
For her, the doctoral degree is helping to fulfill a personal sense of purpose.
“With the time that I served with the military and the investment they put into me in terms of education, I wanted to give back. I want to give back in a sense where I’m helping fellow veterans and female soldiers like myself,” she said.
The married couple of 13 years completed their master’s through GCU and decided to push for their doctorate together.
“Everything we’ve done from our very first mission in 2005 to now, we still have that soldier mentality of ‘if we can survive war, we can survive this,’” said Fayola.
Joseph and Penny Davis of Richmond, Kentucky, are also in their second phase of residency at GCU.
The couple has been attending the university since 2012. Joseph’s program of study is organizational leadership and Penny’s is cognitive learning in psychology.
They call themselves “one of those success stories” of online dating, meeting through a dating website in 2010. Ten months later, they decided to tie the knot.
Penny began pursuing her education at GCU first, then pushed Joseph to get his degree as well.
“If it wasn’t for her encouragement, I would not be here today. I’ve given her the credit the whole time I’ve been in school because I never thought I had the aptitude to stay in a college program at all,” said Joseph.
The couple jokes that they are so close in completing their programs, they’ve turned it into a competition of who will graduate first.
To Joseph, completing his doctorate program is much more than achieving the pleasing ring of “Dr.” before his name.
“I’ve found that since I’ve gotten into mental health and working with people, I love to teach. I feel like the more I can learn, the better teacher I will become to help those that are trying for a better life,” he said.
Marquis and Molly Walker, of Cincinnati, Ohio, are in their first phase of residency and new to GCU.
Molly is pursuing her doctorate in teaching and learning in adult education, and Marquis is studying general psychology with an emphasis in industrial organization of psychology.
They met as undergrads at Malone University where their friendship turned into a love story during their senior year. They recently celebrated their 20th year of marriage.
Molly, a middle school teacher, found out about GCU through her school district and convinced her husband to complete their doctorates together.
For Molly, completing this degree would allow her to be able to teach in a college setting and help future educators stay in the education field.
Marquis is a women’s soccer coach at a university but says he doesn’t see himself on the sidelines forever. He wants to be able to teach once his coaching days are over.
While completing a doctorate degree is not an easy task, the couple says GCU’s residency program has been an overwhelming support.
“I’ve never had so much time to commit to doing this since we have four kids at home and we’re very busy, so this has been nice,” said Molly.
At home, the couple says they support each other well, having a great understanding of each other’s space and knowing what the other needs to be successful in their studies.
They say the residency has been a great way to network and comforting in the sense that others are just like them.
“Seeing other people that are in the same boat as us and have similar struggles is good to know, like, hey we’re not alone,” said Marquis.
Suzan Mabuong and Mangok Mayen, originally from South Sudan, Africa, are in the same organizational leadership doctorate program.
The couple, married 11 years, met in South Sudan and decided to make the move to America to pursue options that weren’t available there. Mangok says there were wars, and not many people living luxurious lives – so they moved far away and began a new life.
Now the couple lives in Virginia with their four children, equipped with master’s degrees from GCU and working toward their doctorate.
“Being colleagues, we understand each other. We know the pressures of school and it’s less stressful for us,” said Suzan.
“It’s good for couples to have something to do together, it doesn’t matter how hard it is. It’s difficult because English isn’t our first language but doing the same thing together has been incredible.”
For Suzan and Mangok, having this opportunity of higher education is a blessing, one that they’re grateful they can pursue together.
“It’s not easy, but I think God put us together for this mission,” said Mangok.
GCU News staff writer Scianna Garcia can be reached at [email protected].