Meeting With President Reflects GCU Professor's Drive, Passion

By Bob Romantic
GCU News Bureau

The photograph is on her mantle at home.

It’s in her phone.

It’s a screensaver on her computer.

It’s even on a T-shirt.

Shica Little has accomplished quite a few things in her life. But that photo -- of her standing next to President Obama in front of the American flag -- represents the passion and hard work that she puts into everything. 

“That’s my bragging rights,” said Little, a full-time online professor for GCU who got the opportunity to meet Obama earlier this year because she was a top fundraiser for his campaign. “When I got this picture, I sent it
to everybody that I knew. I sent it to clients I had worked with, clients I wanted to work with. When I was searching for jobs, before I got this one, I put that picture in the bio about me.

“For someone who works as
hard as I work, and I’m a very hard worker … the fact that I’ve met the president of the United States, you should be able to
say, ‘You know what, that girl is driven. She can make it happen.’”

Little, 38, has made a lot of things happen in her life. She has been a grade school and middle school teacher. She has worked in real estate. She flirted with her own clothing line. She’s been in a national TV commercial for ProActiv Skin Care. She appeared in a marketing promotion for Home Depot. She has competed on a television cooking show (and didn’t burn anything!). She’s a wife and mother of two daughters – Ashley, 20, and Alia, 15. And she’s working to complete her teaching doctorate at GCU.

After marrying her high school sweetheart, Michael Little, and having her first child at the age of 18, Shica said she was driven to live life to the fullest – as a mother and as a professional.

“I wanted to make sure I wasn’t a statistic. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to be this pregnant girl and her life is over and can’t do anything,” Little said. “I was like, ‘I’m going to do everything to the max. All the dreams I want to do, I’m going to go for it. All the degrees I want to get, I’m going to get those.' And I’ve done that so far.”

Leaving the president speechless

Little got her photo op with the president after raising $55,000 for his campaign in less than three weeks. She was nominated in November 2011 for a two-day training session in Washington, D.C., called “Obama University” that was designed to attract fundraisers from across the country.

A few months later, when Obama came to Little’s hometown of Atlanta for fundraising events, she sold a client she had previously worked with a $35,800 ticket to a private event March 16 at Tyler Perry’s home that Oprah Winfrey also attended.

“My client called and told me it was the best $35,000 he had ever spent,” Little said.

That ticket, coupled with her other fundraising efforts, also meant Little was rewarded for her efforts with her own opportunity to meet Obama at another event that evening.

Standing in a line of about 15 people, Little said she rehearsed all the things she wanted to say to the president in the one minute she had with him.

“I literally talked his head off for a whole minute,” Little said. “I don’t think I let the man say a word. He was sitting there, like, ‘I really appreciate your efforts’ and he shook my hand. … If I could do anything different, I would probably give him the time to say something.”

Little said that is part of the appeal of Obama. She doesn’t consider herself a Democrat or Republican, just someone who likes candidates who believe in “making changes that are going to be beneficial for people whether you’re poor or well off. We just look for whoever is fair.”

Despite many anxious moments leading up to it, the opportunity to speak with Obama, she said, felt like talking to her father.

“That’s how comfortable I felt. And for him to let me ramble and say anything I wanted to, he didn’t stop me or say ‘Hold on, let me say something,’” added Little, who plans to attend Obama’s inauguration in January. “It was just the calmness, the peacefulness about him. It makes you feel welcome and feel at home. I really like that about him.”

Flirting with fame

That was not the first time the spotlight has found Little.

While she was a student working on her master’s degree at American InterContinental University, she auditioned for a ProActiv Skin Care commercial that is still aired across the country.

“I was working out the other morning on the elliptical walker and, lo and behold, I looked up and there was the commercial,” Little said. “People at church and people I run into always tell me, 'I saw you on a commercial. That was you!’ That’s neat.”

She also did some promotional work for Home Depot and for a while worked on creating her own clothing line.

Her most recent endeavor came about when she nominated her mother to appear on a TV One cooking show called “My Momma Throws Down” that was created by the same producers as “Iron Chef” on the Food Channel. The show pits moms in a 45-minute cook-off in front of judges.

When her mother was hesitant to participate, Little said the producers asked her if she could cook.

“I’m like, hmmm, not a lot. But they said they really wanted me to be part of the show. They were looking for entertainment and people with bubbly personalities.

“I don’t cook that well, I will say that. I have about five dishes. But the personality outweighed the skills.”

Little said she cooked barbecued chicken, macaroni and a squash casserole during the show. “What I was really proud of is that it didn’t burn, because I’ve burned a lot of things.”

She didn’t win her “throw-down” on the show but producers liked her personality so much that, in a commercial promotion for the show that can be seen here, Little is the first person featured.

Back to school

After graduating from Clemson University in 1996, Little worked as an elementary and middle-school teacher before getting into real estate during its heyday. She did that for several years and opened her own brokerage firm until the real-estate market crashed.

At that point, Little said, she decided to get back to what she really loved: education.

“I knew that education was something people can’t take away from you. They can take your house or your cars or whatever, but your education is something that will always go with you.”

After completing her master’s degree, she enrolled at GCU in January 2010 for her doctoral degree. After a visit to campus, she said she fell in love with Phoenix and “was so impressed with the high level of education I’ve received in my doctorate program that I wanted to also teach for the University.”

That became a reality in August, when she was hired as a full-time online professor teaching education courses. So she moved from Atlanta to Tempe to work for GCU while also continuing her work toward her doctoral degree, which she expects to complete by January.

Her dissertation is on first-generation college students and the motivating factors that led them to higher education. It’s a topic dear to the heart of GCU (which draws many first-timers because of its low-cost, private Christian education) and to Little herself (she was the first in her family to receive a college education).

“The topic is intriguing to me not only to express why I wanted to go to college, but maybe even to help other students in the future to know what motivates them to pursue a post-secondary education,” Little said.

Once her doctorate is complete, Little said she plans to walk across the stage at GCU Arena for graduation ceremonies and then continue teaching.

“I love teaching others. I love sharing my knowledge. I love inspiring people,” Little said. “I teach online now.… It’s great to have four computer screens, but I would love the opportunity to teach in person at GCU.”

Contact Bob Romantic at 639.7611 or [email protected].


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