When Stephanie Loftin crosses the stage at Ashford University’s* Fall 2019 commencement to celebrate earning her MBA , she’ll be doing it with her family close by her side.
Very close, in fact. Her father, Stewart, will be just a few steps away, crossing the stage himself after earning his MBA.
“If it weren’t for him – in every role that he played throughout my journey – I don’t think I would have gotten this far,” Stephanie says of their dual success. “College was an experience that brought us together, that no one else could share.
The father-daughter duo is proof that the family that schools together, succeeds together. But their family’s legacy at Ashford goes back even further to another generation. Stewart’s mother, Joyce, also earned her bachelor’s degree and an MBA at Ashford. In fact, it was her journey that set into motion a chain of educational achievements that will define the Loftin family for generations to come.
Planting the Seeds of Success
While celebrating his mother’s academic success, Stewart, a senior operations manager for an international manufacturing company, began thinking about returning to school himself.
“I have worked most of my career in the electrical and manufacturing industries, and in management, I kept finding myself dealing more in the business end instead of the engineering aspect,” he says. “I decided that a business degree would give me a better chance of success.”
Stewart graduated Ashford with his Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration in 2014 and immediately urged Stephanie to earn a degree that would potentially enhance her budding health care career.
It was something Stephanie had always wanted but felt she couldn’t pursue the traditional way.
“I became a mother my senior year of high school, so beginning college courses didn’t happen as quickly as I would have hoped,” Stephanie explains, adding that she tried taking nursing courses at a brick and mortar school in her early 20s but struggled with juggling motherhood and being a full-time student.
By the time she was 28, Stephanie had three children and a college degree looked unattainable. But one day while visiting her father, that all changed.
“She saw me doing my homework, and I convinced her to give Ashford a try,” Stewart recalls.
Ultimately it was her father’s success that helped fuel Stephanie’s desire to pursue her Bachelor of Arts in Health Care Administration.
“My father pushed me to be a better version of myself for not just me, but for my kids. He always believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself.”
‘The Classes Just Fit’
Neither Stewart nor Stephanie had attended an online college before enrolling in Ashford. Both chose the University not just because of the familial connection, but because it was the ideal fit for their nonstop lives.
“The program setup made it easy to incorporate the classes into a life that was filled with full-time work, full-time motherhood, and anything else that came up,” Stephanie says.
Meanwhile, Stewart’s previous experience and technical background made it easier for him to develop a plan – days to research, days to create an outline, days to write his assignments, etc. It was a successful style of learning that Stephanie ultimately adapted as well.
Instead of trying to cram everything in at the last minute, Stephanie followed in her father’s footsteps, creating a routine that would keep her from getting too stressed out.
In the end, she leaned on her father to reach her goals, and he did the same.
“My father pushed me to be a better version of myself for not just me, but for my kids,” Stephanie says. “He always believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself.”
Aiming for Something Greater
Having enrolled just a year apart, Stewart and Stephanie succeeded in their shared goal of earning their bachelor’s degrees. But their ultimate success was still to come. Like he had before, Stewart urged his daughter to continue her education, and they decided to pursue their MBAs at the same time.
“My father knew he wanted to get his MBA before I was done with my first degree,” Stephanie says. “He spoke about it often and said, ‘If you continue with your education I will be there for you, we can do this together.’”
Though both father and daughter have credited services like the Library, Writing Center, and Career Services to guide them from enrollment to graduation, it was the bond between the two that proved to be most supportive of all.
“If I was stressed, he knew why, and we worked through it together,” she says. “If I was stuck on a topic or question, I could turn to him for help with brainstorming.
“This, for me, was beyond just a typical father-daughter relationship and more about mentorship, gratefulness, and the realization that he would really do anything for me.”
Eventually, Stewart and Stephanie joined Joyce as a member of Ashford’s chapter of the Golden Key International Honour Society, which recognizes top performers who have a GPA of 3.7 or higher in a graduate degree program.
Advocates for Higher Education, and Each Other
The ability to lean on each other carried Stewart and Stephanie through the most difficult times, and both have emerged for the better. With her MBA, Stephanie sees a bigger future with the health care company she’s worked at for 10 years, and Stewart is embracing his role as a mentor, encouraging anyone he has a conversation with related to education to enroll at his family’s alma mater.
“I obtained two quality degrees at Ashford that will serve me for the rest of my life,” he says.
Written by University Staff
*Ashford University is now the University of Arizona Global Campus