UAB senior overcomes health challenges to become first online psychology graduate

Class of 2017 option 2After graduation, Haley Callahan will pursue her master’s degree in counseling from Northwestern University.
Read more stories about UAB's spring graduates on our Class of 2017 page.

Written by: Katherine Shonesy
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haley callahan webThis Saturday, Haley Callahan will become the first graduate of UAB’s online psychology degree program, a feat she accomplished fighting through two chronic illnesses.

While attending on-campus classes at another university like most of her peers, Haley’s health began to decline as she battled Crohn’s disease and epilepsy. It was crucial to Haley that she continue her education.

“My mom and I were determined that, if I were going to leave the four-year college and attend an online program, it needed to be extremely reputable,” Haley said.

That is where UAB came in.

Over the past five years, enrollment in online classes at UAB has nearly doubled. In Fall 2016, 10,301 students enrolled in at least one online class; 4,428 of those students were enrolled only online. The university now offers 11 online bachelor’s degrees, dozens of master’s degrees and seven doctoral and education specialist degrees.

“After researching UAB’s program extensively, it just felt right to me,” she said. “It felt like I was meant to be a Blazer all along — it just took me a little longer to get there.”

Haley enrolled in UAB’s online Bachelor of Science psychology degree program offered through the College of Arts and Sciences.

“I decided to take a chance and enroll in UAB’s online psychology program to make things easier on my health, while still earning my degree from a well-respected university,” Haley said. “I quickly learned that becoming a Blazer was one of the best decisions I had ever made.”

The online Bachelor of Science degree in psychology at UAB, which launched in Fall 2016, can be taken completely online without any on-campus requirements, providing more flexibility for students like Haley who cannot come to campus. While offered online, the courses are taught by the same faculty and with the same requirements as the traditional degree, giving online students as rich an experience as possible.

“I liked the fact that the online program was treated seriously,” Haley said. “When many people think of online degrees, they assume the students are taking the easy way out; but this was not the case. The courses I participated in were just as, if not more, rigorous and demanding as the in-person courses I took in the past.”

From student to counselor

“Years ago, I sat in on a few therapy sessions with a family member who has a panic disorder,” Haley said. “It fascinated me to see what type of work went into the sessions, as well as seeing this person’s life slowly but surely change for the better. I knew then that I wanted to be able to help someone change his or her life for the better through counseling.”

“I decided to take a chance and enroll in UAB’s online psychology program to make things easier on my health, while still earning my degree from a well-respected university. I quickly learned that becoming a Blazer was one of the best decisions I had ever made.”

While taking classes like Abnormal Psychology, the Psychology of Marriage, and Drugs and Human Behavior, Haley was able to get even further clarity on where she wanted to go in the future.

“I absolutely loved Abnormal Psychology; the material covered in this course is what I hope to do for a living, so it was great to get a deeper understanding of things like depression and schizophrenia,” she said.

Following graduation, Haley will be pursuing a master’s degree in counseling from Northwestern University, which also offers a 100 percent online degree option.

“I can continue to see my doctors here in Huntsville, and still have the opportunity to pursue my career and life goals,” she said.

Haley plans to either work toward becoming a licensed counselor, focusing on cognitive behavioral therapy, or continue her education and earn a Ph.D.

She credits UAB for where she is in her education today. According to Haley, a key to that journey was the many UAB faculty and staff members who stepped in to ensure her experience as a Blazer was a positive one.

“From Dr. Catherine Daniélou, who has been my champion since I began at UAB and has been by my side through my highs and lows, to Dr. Samuel Jones, who taught a couple of my courses and truly wanted me to succeed — I have encountered so many amazing people,” Haley said. “I was even able to venture outside of psychology, and take some screenwriting courses. Lee Shackleford in the Department of Theatre made me feel so welcomed when I was nervous about stepping outside of my comfort zone coming into my first class with no experience.”

She encourages others considering an online degree program to look to UAB as an option.

“I know that I could not have done it without the knowledge and confidence I gained from being a part of UAB’s online psychology program; it truly changed my life,” Haley said.

If you're interested in learning more about UAB's online programs, visit the UAB Online website