Degrees of leadership: Honors College staff unites

From left, Anna Cofrancesco, Dr. Breanna Naegeli, Dennis Williams, Cathleen Daly and Faith Beatty of the Honors College earned graduate degrees in 2020.

By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau

For many, 2020 will be remembered for the challenges it brought. But for leaders of Grand Canyon University’s Honors College, it also will be remembered for a more positive reason.

It was the year that five members of the college's staff earned a graduate degree from GCU.

Last summer, GCU Today published a story on Associate Dean Dr. Breanna Naegeli's Ph.D. in Performance Psychology from the College of Doctoral Studies. But Naegeli was not alone in completing her graduate program in 2020.

Program Managers Dennis Williams, Anna Cofrancesco and Cathleen Daly along with Program Development Specialist Faith Beatty all completed their respective master’s programs as well.

“I am exceptionally proud of our team and what we have been able to accomplish in 2020 – despite the disruption and impact of COVID-19,” Naegeli said. “I feel as though this story illustrates the support we have for one another both personally and professionally. As a team, we have supported one another in pursuing these educational goals while also keeping the growth and development of our department a priority as well.”

Beatty graduated with her MBA.

In the spring, Williams and Beatty completed their Master of Business Administration degrees, and Naegeli successfully defended her dissertation in the early summer. In the fall semester, Cofrancesco finished work on her Master of Science degree in Criminal Justice with an Emphasis in Law Enforcement, and in December Daly concluded the graduation celebration by receiving her Master of Public Administration with an Emphasis in Government and Policy.

They all pointed to the encouragement and support of their Honors College peers as a key to their accomplishments.

“I was a first-generation college student, so college in general was not something I thought was in my future,” Beatty said. “When I graduated and started in my current role, I also never thought I’d receive my master’s and Bre (Naegeli) within my first month said, ‘No, you’re going to do this. You have the entire team to support you, and this is certainly something you can accomplish.’

“That definitely gave me that extra push I needed. I just remember throughout the entire thing, moments when I felt discouraged, the whole team was so supportive.”

A master's degree always was one of Williams' goals, but his busy schedule on and off campus made it challenging. The father of two operates a music performance business with his wife, and between parenting and the business Williams found himself lacking an abundance of free time.

“It was definitely the support of this team and us all going in together saying that this is something that we want to accomplish as a team and just setting that goal that we all wanted to finish within 2020. It was just something that made it super special,” Williams said. “I could have found any number of reasons to hold off, slow down or take another break here and there, but just for us all to be together in this as a team was really the fuel to push through."

Williams graduated with his MBA.

Unlike Williams, when Cofrancesco began her full-time role at the Honors College she had no intention of pursuing graduate school. Much like Beatty, she was motivated by Naegeli.

“Bre encouraged me to look into different master’s programs,” Cofrancesco said. “My parents are strong believers in higher education, and they fully encouraged and supported me throughout this educational journey.

“It was definitely challenging, but reflecting back on it, I am very thankful and appreciative now that I’ve earned it. And I look forward to applying my degree and knowledge in my career.”

Daly’s completion of her program marks a significant milestone both in her family and among her colleagues. Originally scheduled to graduate in this spring, Daly took advantage of free time created by the pandemic to double up on classes. Daly is the first person in her family to complete a master’s program.

“I started my program prior to my role in the Honors College,” Daly said. “Once I started in my role and learned that the rest of the team was working toward completing their programs in 2020, I was very inspired and challenged to complete mine in 2020 as well.”

Joe Perez (right) is the newest Program Manager at the Honors College.

In addition to the tenured Honors leadership completing their graduate programs, new Honors College Program Manager Joe Perez joined the team in October, bringing with him a J.D. in Law and an MPA.

“It was extremely impressive, when I was doing my research on the Honors College, to see how Bre led that effort and how all of the members had pursued additional master’s degrees,” Perez said. “It really spoke to me in terms to the type of culture the Honors College and the University had, in respect to developing their employees.

“It really was truly impressive to see the support that the college, and Bre specifically, had for her team and developing her team.”

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


Related content:

GCU Today: Canyon 49 dinner celebrates Honors PAC students

GCU Today: Honors clubs unite to create COVID care packages


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