It may have taken Karrie Newby nearly 25 years to earn her Associate of Arts degree, but once she got the ball rolling, there was no stopping her. Now at 61 years of age, this professor not only has her BA in Heath Care Administration, Master of Arts in Education, and doctorate in psychology, she’s also earned 19 certifications and three additional degrees.
“In 1981, I began this crazy odyssey, but sometimes life gets in the way,” she explains. “I had two children, a business, and a husband that left me. I realized quickly you have to do the right thing for your family. So, I slowed down with my classes and did whatever I could to keep going.” In 2005, she finally earned her associate degree.
By 2009, Karrie was ready to jump back in and continue her education. This time she wouldn't stop until racking up multiple degrees.
Her journey wasn’t without some significant bumps along the way, however. While finishing up her doctorate, Karrie was diagnosed with a form of multiple sclerosis and went 100% blind for more than two weeks.
She credits Ashford* professor Dr. Timothy Rice for why she continued to push through and get her degree.
“Sitting in the emergency room, without knowing if I’d ever see again, he called, and we decided I was going to finish my degree, no matter what,” she says. “My daughter would be my scribe, and with the encouragement of Dr. Rice and my family, we would get through this.”
Armed with the sports psychology knowledge she was currently learning in school, Karrie made it a point to stay positive. “Happy people get better faster,” she says.
Just 18 days later, her vision returned stronger than ever, and she continued with her studies while adapting to life with MS.
Karrie acknowledges it’s not easy earning a degree while juggling the many responsibilities of adult life. It takes a great deal of discipline and time management.
“When I first started, I would go into the garage and wear a miner’s hat for light. And I would hide in the car to do my work so the kids wouldn’t bother me,” she laughs.
With mom as their example, both her children made college a priority, and her daughter Lanie is currently enrolled in a doctoral program of her own. The inspiration was mutual as Karrie explains that she used her son Riqui (who is a passionate ice skater) as her muse while writing her doctoral dissertation.
“Anybody can do this,” says Karrie. “Anybody can be successful. You just need to be able to pick up the tools to get there, and I think Ashford provides some wonderful tools.”
She remembers a saying her grandfather (who himself went back to college at age 76) always used to reference: Though you will go forth and set the world on fire, you should always return home for matches.
“For me, Ashford provided the matches,” she says. “Every time I found myself getting in trouble, I could contact someone at Ashford to learn how to get through it.”
The Ashford University Library, in particular was a favorite resource for Karrie with her research-intensive degrees.
“I could reach out to the library and was taught how to look up true, verifiable research,” she explains. “It taught me how to be a responsible scholar.”
In addition to learning from her professors at Ashford, Karrie says she also discovered the importance of adhering to consistent, easy-to-follow curriculum and staying connected with her students.
“Beyond helping me graduate and be successful, the way Ashford’s classes are organized taught me how to set up my own classes,” she explains. “From that, I was awarded a fellowship where I teach to be a virtual college faculty fellow because I do so well in writing up the curriculum. And I learned that by example from Ashford.”
She also credits professors like Dr. Rice for teaching her how to be involved even from a distance and be passionately dedicated to their students’ success.
“Dr. Rice likes to say he holds the ladder, but you have to climb in. He’s like a cheerleader in this virtual world, telling you that yes, you can do it. I learned a lot of my teaching style from him.”
Now this successful, recently published Texas professor is a member of numerous committees and has won awards as an engaged scholarly professor. Karrie’s also getting ready to write a textbook with her colleague this summer.
She says none of it would’ve been possible without Ashford.
“I don’t ever want to stop learning,” says Karrie. “I absolutely love what I’m doing, and I believe Ashford lit that fire. If I had 100 more years, I would be the person with the most degrees in the world.”
* Ashford University is now the University of Arizona Global Campus