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Alicia smiling beside her laptop at a cafe

Finding her “why”

Discovering purpose with UAB’S 100% ONLINE HEALTH CARE MANAGEMENT degree

Dedicating the time and attention required to earn a degree is no easy feat. Those who reach the finish line have one thing in common: They know their “why.” They know the one, meaningful-to-them reason that they must finish their degree.

Sometimes your “why” can be as simple as knowing that the people closest to you are cheering you on.

Alicia Cherry is slated to graduate from UAB’s 100 percent online Bachelor of Health Care Management program in fall 2022. She told us about one person who kept her going when she met an unexpected dead end in her academic journey. Her quotes have been lightly edited for readability.

The phone rang, and Alicia picked up. It was her grandmother, whom she called “Granny,” on the other end:

Granny: “Alicia, you OK?”

Alicia: “I’m fine.”

Granny: “You know you gotta get out that bed.”

Alicia: “Yes, ma’am. I’m gonna get out the bed.”

Granny: “Well, don’t sit there and be sad about it.”

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Alicia’s grandmother spoke these words to her at a pivotal moment. Alicia had just failed her third semester of nursing school at community college. She didn’t see this moment coming. She was a hard worker and had even taken college classes while she was still in high school so she could get ahead. She had a passion for health care and had dreamed of being a nurse for years. What was once a clear vision of her future suddenly vanished, leaving her feeling lost and discouraged.

Alicia smiling

Sometimes your “why” can be as simple as knowing that the people closest to you are cheering you on.

Amid the confusion, more encouraging words came: “My grandma said, ‘Knowing you, you’re just like your mom. You’re going to stay in school. If anything, just take off a semester.’ I took off the following spring semester and asked myself, ‘What else? What do I actually want to do?’”

Alicia paused to do the hard work of charting a new career path. She’d need to be smart about her school choice. By then, she had a job in retail and bills of her own to pay. Could she finish school, keep working, and find a career she loved? She talked to family members and did some soul-searching and internet-searching.

Her Aunt Holly, a health administrator, invited Alicia to look into the field. Alicia had never considered or even heard of health care management before. In her years of experience in retail, she thrived at delivering excellent customer service. She started imagining how she might bring the same professionalism and drive into the health care setting. It got her excited. Perhaps this was the direction she needed to go.

But first, she needed Granny’s blessing. She called her up and shared the idea.

“I think that’d be really good for you. You know, you can be a little demanding,” Granny remarked with a smile.

That was all Alicia needed to hear.

Her internet search led her to UAB, the university just an hour from her hometown of Jasper, Alabama. She learned that UAB had a Health Care Management program, and she could earn her degree in person or 100 percent online.

At the same moment in time, the COVID pandemic was making its way across the hemispheres. As the world around her halted, Alicia realized that pursuing her degree 100 percent online meant that even a pandemic couldn’t stop her. Not to mention, she could keep her full-time retail job.

She received her acceptance letter from UAB and called her grandmother to tell her the good news. After a jubilant, over-the-phone celebration, Granny shared words of wisdom that Alicia has lived by since: “What’s gonna be for you will be for you.”

Alicia smiling with her late grandmotherAlicia smiling with her late grandmother

On the right path

One of Alicia’s first classes was with Professor Donna Herrin-Griffith. Griffith arranged a Zoom call with Alicia and a classmate. It turned out the classmate had also left nursing school to pursue Health Care Management. Griffith recognized the situation: the uncertainty both Alicia and her classmate still felt as they stood at the starting line of something new.

Alicia recalled Griffith’s admonition over Zoom that day: “I just want you to know it’s OK to hit that rough pass. Who knows? You may eventually go back into nursing. Or maybe it just wasn’t for you.”

Granny’s words came back to Alicia’s mind: “What’s gonna be for you will be for you.” Alicia said, “It was just like a ‘ding’ instantly went off, and I knew this was really for me.”

Her courses continued to confirm her choice. She learned that health care leaders can work in a variety of settings, such as long-term care facilities, addiction clinics, occupational therapy facilities, and more. She could work locally or travel. She could get a master’s degree and work her way up even to CEO of a hospital one day. “The options are endless for me,” Alicia said.

Bright future

With just one semester left, Alicia has already been contacted by recruiters inviting her to apply to their companies. They’re talking to her about start dates in January, just weeks after her graduation. Her LinkedIn profile is polished, and after this semester, she’ll have internship experience at an addiction clinic to add to it.

She plans to walk at graduation, saying, “It’s a big accomplishment. I don’t want to be tele-prompted.” Then, she will set off on a celebratory trip to Mexico or Jamaica with her mom, brother, and some close friends.

But there will be one special person missing on her graduation trip. In February 2022, Granny was diagnosed with late-stage cancer. She passed away less than two months later.

Just as Granny met her with uplifting words when she was at her lowest, Alicia is determined to serve others in their time of need. As Alicia presses forward with hope and anticipation, she says of Granny, “I know she’s shining down on me.”

about you?

Your “why” for finishing your degree might be as simple and profound as heeding the words of the ones who know you best. Do you have people rooting for you? Telling you there is a way forward, and you will find it if you don’t give up? Contact us today so we can help you take the first step..

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