Nothing is holding her back: Student and mother earns liberal studies degree

November 19, 2019 · 3 min read · By ASU Online

Tonya Allen has been on quite the roller coaster ride while achieving her college degree. Thirty years after starting her college journey, she will graduate from Arizona State University with a degree in Liberal Studies. She contributes her success to self-determination, organization, time-management, and the many resources available to ASU Online students.


Tonya’s higher education adventure started when she graduated high school. Being a first generation college student, she did not have guidance when applying to schools or understanding financial aid, but that didn’t keep her from applying. She began at a local community college, then transferred to Arizona State in 1991. As a single mom to a six-month old baby, Tonya’s grades were suffering. She decided to leave ASU after a year of enrolling and began working full time to support her daughter.

Tonya attempted to continue her college degree, but faced many family crisis and health complications that set her back. She knew that she had to press on through the roadblocks and was determined to be an inspiration for her children. Tonya wanted to prove to herself and her family that anything can be achieved, no matter the obstacles or lack of support.

“If you have no other cheerleaders, be your biggest cheerleader” Tonya says.

Fortunately, she gained a key cheerleader along the way. Education is very important to her husband who has his bachelor’s and master’s degrees and is pursuing his doctorate. With his support, Tonya returned to pursue a college degree once more. This time she returned to ASU to complete her degree online.

“My husband graduated from ASU in 1994. His aunt was the first black woman to live in the dorms at ASU. Her two children graduate from there, then my husband; it’s a part of the family history. ASU has been a blessing in his family’s life. I’m proud to carry that legacy with my side of the family.”

Being out of school for so long and starting an online program was no easy task for Tonya. She reached out to her Success Coach many times for help and support. When she didn’t think she would be able to complete a challenging course assignment, she contacted her Success Coach to see what her options were. Her coach recommended the Writing Center, where she promptly scheduled a 9:00 p.m. virtual writing session to go over her project.

“I went into it skeptical, thinking ‘how much can I get out of this? …it’s not in person.’” After one tutoring appointment she began to feel like she could grasp the assignments.

By the end of the session, Tonya had aced the final project and received an A in the class. Later, her professor contacted her to see if she would be a Teaching Assistant in the following session.

When asked about advice to fellow ASU Online students, she replies, ”Make sure you are truly ready with no distractions. You have to be self-motivated, goals set. Use resources: tutoring, success coach, academic advisors, all of these people. There are so many players to our success. You'll find that those opportunities and resources are readily available 24/7.”

“She believed she could, so she did!”

She is very proud of her success, “Sometimes you have to go the long route, but it's never, never too late.”

Now Tonya is two classes away, on “pins and needles,” and eager to walk on that stage, shake hands, and receive her well deserved, long awaited bachelor’s degree.

Learn more about a degree in Liberal Studies with ASU Online.


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