Alumni Accomplishments

Two-Decade Degree Dream Realized

Tricia Ashman finished her bachelor’s degree after a 20-year break

A woman in graduation robes.

Photo Credit: Robert Hall

A woman posing.

Photo Credit: Robert Hall

icon of a calendarAugust 25, 2020

icon of a pencilBy Patrick Dunn and Patti Georgevich

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In 1993, Tricia Ashman earned her associate degree at Macomb Community College (Macomb). But, after studying journalism for nearly two years at Wayne State University, she “stopped out.”

“As I say, ‘Life happened,’” Ashman says.

At first, scheduling conflicts got in the way. Then a full-time job, marriage and raising three kids. However, Ashman says completing a bachelor’s degree remained her “personal goal.”

In 2016, she still had those 89 college credits — but no degree. The then 44-year-old found a way to make it happen.

Ashman left her job as an administrative assistant/coordinator at Little Caesars, where she’d worked for 11 years, and accepted a job as an office assistant at Oakland University’s Mount Clemens location. She made the decision for two reasons: the OU Anton/Frankel Center was closer to her Harrison Township home, and OU offered tuition benefits for employees and their dependents.

Once at OU, she discovered an additional advantage to help her realize her degree goal — OU’s Bachelor of Integrative Studies (BIS) degree. Through a 3+1 partnership between OU and Macomb, BIS students can transfer up to 88 credits from Macomb or Oakland Community College toward their OU degree. Students can design their own course of study for their unique career goals and complete their bachelor’s degree by taking just 32 credits at OU, which may be done in about a year.

Ashman chose a slower pace to complete her BIS degree, so she could still make time for family and other commitments while going to school.

She completed her degree in fewer than three years, graduating in December 2019.

Ashman chose communication and human resource development classes for her 32 credits at OU, aiming for skills that could serve her well in almost any future career. She took mostly evening and online courses, allowing her to juggle school with work and family commitments. She says the OU faculty were “wonderful” and “incredibly understanding” of her needs as a non-traditional student.

“At this stage of my career, I think what a faculty member is able to teach me is much different than a traditional student,” Ashman says. “It’s not about the theories and knowledge as much as it is about the relationships and really learning how to work with others.”

Ashman completed the capstone course for her degree with a unique service-learning project at the nonprofit CARE of Southeastern Michigan, researching negative internalizing behaviors of children of alcoholics. Ashman volunteered at CARE events and helped facilitate CARE’s parenting classes, which promote improved communication skills between parents and their children.

“Volunteering for CARE pulled together everything from my research,” Ashman says.

Lindsay Zeig, integrative studies special lecturer and OU academic counselor, says Ashman stood out as “a leader and a role model for the other students in class.”

“Tricia was eager to learn, participate and step out of her comfort zone to accomplish her goals,” Zeig says. “Graduating at the top of her class, she worked diligently at her studies to get the most out of her education. She’ll find success in anything she does.”

Ashman says OU has been “a great choice” — both personally and professionally. Now that she’s graduated, she’d like to use her writing skills to work in communications. And, she feels her 30 years of experience and degree will make her “even more marketable.”

Her husband, Patrick, is also an OU alumnus, SBA ’94. They’re proud their daughter, Laura, is attending OU and is set to graduate in 2021. And their son, Spencer, a senior at L’Anse Creuse High School, is also considering attending OU.

“Earning my degree later in my life as a non-traditional student has shown my kids it’s all right to accept life’s detours. And, it’s never too late to achieve your goals,” Ashman says.

Learn more about OU’s bachelor’s and master’s degree programs offered at our locations in Clinton Township and Mount Clemens at OU Macomb.

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