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Professional and Graduate Studies Graduates Inspire Future Generations

2022.12.03.005_WinterCommencement-330-2Graduation is on the horizon for students at Southern Nazarene University (SNU). With spring commencement ceremonies taking place next month, students are seeing the culmination of their hard work pay off. This can be an especially meaningful time for Professional and Graduate Studies (PGS) students. As adult learners, many PGS graduates have to overcome great obstacles to achieve their dream of pursuing higher education. 

Faculty members and graduate and professional school staff often recognize students with exceptional stories. These students may be working towards their professional, graduate, or postgraduate degrees. These programs require much time and effort, an extra challenge for adult learners who often work full-time and raise families. We want to take the opportunity to share the inspiring student success stories of some of these SNU graduates.

Tamala YoungTamala Young

Tamala Young is the first person in her family to receive a college degree. Growing up in poverty, Tamala does not recall any discussion of education beyond high school. When she was nine years old, her mother became disabled, requiring Tamala to work part-time through high school. "After graduation, I thought it best to transition from part-time employment to full-time," explains Tamala.

Tamala worked at least two jobs until losing her sight in 2009 when she began to receive disability. Finding herself in a situation that would cause anyone despair, Tamala says that she became depressed. She found renewed purpose in caring for her neighbor's newborn twins and, eventually, other children in her neighborhood. When those children grew up and went to school, Tamala became depressed again.

Feeling like she had nothing to do and no purpose in life, Tamala made a life-changing decision. "I decided - I guess I better grow up and go to school as well." In May 2022, Tamala received an Associate's degree in Applied Sciences in Crime Victims' Survivors Services from another university. She then began to look for a bachelor's program that would be the right fit.

"I looked at another University first. I was disappointed with their lack of professionalism or organization," says Tamala. She spoke to her cousin, an SNU alumna. "She told me I should look into SNU, and from my first contact, I knew that was the right place for me."

Tamala has been extremely pleased with everyone's willingness to help, including her professors and advisors. She will receive her Bachelor's in Family Services and Gerontology next month. Moreover, while working on her practicum, the site offered her a position! "After fifteen years of not working, I am now an employee of Community Literacy Centers Inc.," says Tamala, adding that this opportunity has given her life purpose and strengthened her confidence.

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Derek SebaDerek Seba

Derek Seba received his Bachelor's in Healthcare Administration in October 2023. Derek describes himself as "an adult student embarking on a late life pivot," and says that SNU was able to help him launch this new phase of his life. Derek had a 20-plus-year career with a large company and had semi-retired in 2018 before pursuing his degree.

"I had the experience, but I did not have a degree," explains Derek. So, I enrolled in the Adult Studies program at SNU to begin my next chapter in life." Completing his degree was extremely important to him. "Completing my degree both opened doors for me in this next chapter in life and satisfied my desire to finish my education," says Derek.

According to Derek, SNU's service is what sets them apart, with the university and faculty being incredibly helpful. "SNU has been a blessing to me, and the support I received was outstanding," he added. "Earning my degree was the final piece I needed to complete my employment journey. Now, in addition to the experience I have gained, the educational principles that will allow me to achieve my goals."


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Dianna CarterDianna Carter

Dianna Carter received her associate's degree when she was younger. She had her own reasons for pursuing a bachelor's degree. "I needed a bachelor's degree to be able to be a certified teacher. That piece of paper is what kept me from making a greater income," explains Dianna.

She went to school to teach every day for 15 years but was performing day-to-day tasks and taking long-term sub assignments. "It was time to change that now that all of my children are adults," says Dianna. "I have time to invest in myself, and my husband supported that choice 100 percent."

Dianna has always had a love for education, which she instilled in her children. All six of her children went to college, and four are now teachers in four different Oklahoma school districts. "I have seen my children grow into wonderful adults and four of them being excellent educators. With my degree, I will be able to also be an educator," she says.

Dianna chose SNU because it was close to home, and she liked that it offered in-person classes one night a week. "SNU provided the personalized touch as I made my way through the program," explains Dianna. The freedom to choose her practicum from a wide net was also a significant benefit for Dianna. "My practicum felt more like a calling than a pursuit to higher education."

Completing her degree has also given her the knowledge and understanding to help her parents better as they age. "I watched my grandparents age and I felt that a degree in Family Studies and Gerontology would benefit us all and it would also help me be able to become a certified teacher," says Dianna, adding, "It felt like the right choice for this time in my life."

Congratulations, Tamala, Derek, Dianna, and all of our SNU Graduates! We are honored and humbled by your stories.  May the Lord continue to bless you in all your future endeavors as you seek Him. 

Spring 2024 Commencement for Professional and Graduate Studies will occur on Saturday, May 11, 2024, at SNU's Sawyer Center. The ceremony will begin at 2:00 PM, with doors opening at 1:00 PM.

For more about our Professional and Graduate Studies programs, please get in touch with


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