The Office of Student Access and Wellness was awesome.
Nothing can stop Ashford University* graduate Liz Davis of Sterling, IL. When we first spoke to her about her Ashford experience, she was an 18-year-old freshman who had recently spent three weeks living and working in the small town of Songa, in Malawi, where she lived without electricity and helped build a house for a local teacher.
Along with having a passion for travel, Liz is a dedicated artist. For years she has practiced traditional pencil drawing, and she took several art classes, including film and video at Sterling High. It was her art that brought her to Ashford University. "I was looking at two schools," Davis explained, "and I was torn between Ashford and another small college. But when the people from Ashford came to visit us at Sterling, and they showed me [Ashford's] classes for Computer Graphic Design and Animation, I just took an application and signed up right there."
Another advantage of Ashford University was the Clinton campus' close proximity to her family back home in Illinois. Just a 40-minute drive away, Davis was close enough to visit home, but far away enough to be independent. "I like the fact that there's one skate park in Clinton," Davis said, "I've been skating for about three years. I've got an Element board and a longboard. It's actually pretty easy - I just skate on my knees and use my hands."
Did we mention that Liz is wheelchair-bound? You might not know it from watching her skate! Davis has successfully overcome a number of physical disabilities, including spina bifida, which have left her reliant on her wheelchair since childhood. But that hasn't stopped her. Ashford's Office of Student Access and Wellness has been there for her all along the way. "At first my mom was really freaking out, thinking no one would provide me with anything. Actually, they were really helpful. Poppy Fitch [Director for the Office of Student Access and Wellness] was awesome. She made sure I got a larger room with an accessible bathroom. I even got to have my own bed delivered from home. And since all the mirrors were out of reach, they put a new mirror on the back of my door." With Ashford providing accommodations like these, Davis found that she could have a typical student experience and still feel comfortably at home on the Clinton campus.
One of the things she loved most about Ashford was the ease with which she made friends right from the beginning. "Strangers actually come right up to you at lunch and say, 'What's up?' - it's not at all like high school," said Davis. "That surprised me, in a good way." While at Ashford, Liz worked at the IT help desk in the Student Success office, was a member of the Ashford University Improv Club for a year, and participated in the Fine Arts Club’s theater productions. Academically, she had success too, especially with her photography; she had her own photo exhibit in the Cortona Gallery in her last year.
Liz attended her commencement ceremony in April 2012 at age 22. As for long-term plans, she said it was too early for her to settle on just one career path after graduation. "It all depends!" she said. "I'll see what opportunities there are in Chicago – being so close to a big city is definitely an advantage." Once she has obtained a job doing what she loves in graphic design, then she'll decide whether she wants her Master's degree. Whatever her choice, Davis can be confident of her eventual success.
* Ashford University is now the University of Arizona Global Campus