Classmates-Turned-Family in Online Education

By University Staff

Classmates-Turned-Family in Online Education

Despite the miles between us as distance learners, we three Ashford* graduate students—Gerri Wilson, Tanisha Neal, and Myke McCune—became classmates, colleagues, and friends. The three of us were brought together by Dr. Katie Thiry’s class, when she was inspired to start the Ashford University student chapter of the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM). We, along with Dr. Thiry, recruited students and are proud to be the founding officers of the Ashford University Forbes School of Business and Technology™ SHRM chapter.

Creating a Student Organization

Overachievers in our own right, the three of us communicated quite often in the online discussion boards, so the first SHRM conference call was like a family reunion. The idea that in-person interaction is a requirement for team or group success is a misconception. We’d like to think that the three of us, along with Dr. Thiry, proved that because we had the drive and determination to succeed and establish the SHRM chapter in a very short time. This team is fortunate to share ideas and complete tasks with no power struggles or conflicts.


The three of us were scheduled to attend commencement in San Diego on May 22, 2017 and began to call ourselves the 3 Scholars. Commencement would be the first time all of us met in person, so to commemorate the exciting occasion, we decided to get together for a barbecue before the ceremony. Unfortunately, Tanisha was unable to attend commencement in the end, and Dr. Thiry was held up in meetings. Nevertheless, two of the 3 Scholars—Gerri and Myke—brought our families together, and it was almost as if it were a family reunion.

While commencement was an amazing experience, there was a little bit of sadness in the air as both Tanisha and Dr. Thiry missed out on all of the commencement weekend festivities. In a matter of weeks, “Commencement Do-Over” would become an executable plan. The idea was to recreate commencement to allow Tanisha (alongside Gerri and Myke) to “walk” in full graduation regalia as Dr. Thiry called out our names and handed out the diplomas to the roaring cheers from our families. We are thrilled for this exciting get-together to take place on Labor Day weekend 2017 in the beautiful Palmetto State of South Carolina. The reunion and commencement were a hit, inspiring a contest to allow other student friendships to meet at future commencement ceremonies.

UArizona-Global-Campus classmates

Lasting Friendships

This idea has been so well received that we have decided to make it an annual event, termed “The 3 Scholars & 1 Mentor Summer Reunion,” proposed to be held at each officer’s hometown in rotation. These friendships formed at Ashford and the AU SHRM Chapter live on. Online students have many opportunities to build friendships and form lasting relationships, just as traditional college students do. Join a club or stop by the Ashford Café. You never know what friends you will make! Don’t limit or isolate yourself to classroom activities only. Just because you can’t hang out in the library together in an online environment does not mean you cannot form lasting friendships.


Since graduation, Gerri has received a substantial promotion to the executive level at her company, and Tanisha is in the process of joining the human resource profession. Myke has been promoted to the highest level at his company.

The 3 Scholars have taken several months to relax after completing our program to decide our next steps. We all plan to be lifetime members of SHRM and to serve as alumni ambassadors to continue to build the chapter and assist Dr. Thiry and future officers. We have also enrolled in the PhD program at Ashford’s sister school, University of the Rockie, and will begin our next educational journey in September 2017. And just as we had the same drive to succeed at Ashford—coming together for the common goal of establishing the AU SHRM chapter—all three of us intend to officially be the colleagues Dr. Thiry treats us as by returning to Ashford University as professors someday.

We cannot encourage students enough to get involved in the classes and organizations offered at Ashford. Stop by the AU FSBT SHRM chapter’s LinkedIn page or chapter website for information on upcoming webinars and to connect with fellow students, or check out other networking opportunities.



Written by Gerri Wilson, Tanisha Neal, & Myke McCune, 2017 graduates from the MA in Organizational Management in the Forbes School of Business and Technology

*Ashford University is now the University of Arizona Global Campus.

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