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How 3 UOPX alumni brought their mom skills to college

How do a television commercial and a best friend ignite a fire that has long been smoldering?

How does a working mother catapult from an entry-level job and no college degree to completing two degrees, pursuing a doctorate and working in management, all within a few years?

How do you juggle working 12-hour shifts in healthcare during a pandemic while staying on top of schoolwork and raising young children?

To answer these questions, look no further than three University of Phoenix alumnae and mothers who changed the trajectory of their lives by leveraging adaptability, persistence and sky-is-the-limit goals.

They, like countless other UOPX alumni, ignored the norm to achieve their dreams. But where does that determination come from?

As outlined in the recent Mothers Overcome More™ (M.O.M.™) report, working moms have plenty of stressors, including money and personal finance (57% to 74%) and their children (50%). And while a full 3 out of 5 respondents believe having children has held them back in their careers, 82% remain hopeful about their careers overall.

We can only guess at why they are hopeful, although the data suggests part of it may be the “mom skills” working mothers bring to their jobs. According to the same report, 9 in 10 working moms recognize transferrable skills between parenting and work. A few of these are outlined below:

Infographic: Transferable skills mothers bring to the workplace

Another part? It’s that grit that comes from loving someone more than yourself. More than anyone or anything in the world, in fact. And from needing and wanting to provide for them while also being a role model for them. Here, three such moms and UOPX alumnae share how they made it — school, career, motherhood, success — work for them. 

First-generation determination

Going to college wasn’t the expectation for Angie Orozco, a working mom of three in Southern California. It wasn’t even on the radar. 

Angie Orozco


Angie Orozco

“I came from an immigrant family,” says Orozco. “No one ever told me about the importance of education. It was just work, work, work. … [But] I wanted my children to see that it was never too late to back to school.”

Not even after 20-plus years. Orozco had enrolled in college in her early 20s, but marriage and children derailed her educational goals. Two decades later, when her children were older, a University of Phoenix commercial caught her eye, and she began to wonder what might be possible now that she was older, wiser and in some ways more ready to do what no one else in her family had done: Go to college and complete a degree.

As it turned out, quite a lot was possible. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Business in July 2021 and followed it up with her Master of Health Administration in November 2023. Today, she is the business development manager for Hanger Clinic.

How did you juggle work, family and school?

“You can do so much by not watching television!” Orozco exclaims, pointing out that she also declined most social invitations to focus on her priorities.

She implemented a grueling schedule as well. “I would get up at 2 a.m. and do homework. My daughter would get up in the night to use the restroom and see me studying. ‘Are you still doing your homework, Mom?’”

Orozco’s response? “This is the time to grind.” 

What was your “why” for the grind?

Orozco’s self-described calling is to help others, and her master’s degree has especially empowered her to achieve that goal, she says. Gaining both confidence and skills in that program, she now partners with schools in her rural community to offer clinics and teach classes to students interested in healthcare careers.

What was your biggest challenge?

“[My former co-workers] see that I have done the work that got me a different role, that I wanted to strive for better, and they make me feel …”

Orozco trails off.

“Impostor syndrome?” I offer.

“Yes! I think as human beings we are hard on ourselves, and we doubt if we are enough.”

Orozco, motivated by her children’s ever-watching eyes, doesn’t let impostor syndrome get to her for long. Instead, she taps into the positive mentality she says has always carried her through hard times. Good thing, too: She starts her Doctor of Health Administration program soon. 

Which parenting skills helped you most succeed at work?

“Time management, patience, communication and problem-solving. Parenting involves constant problem-solving, from handling everyday issues to addressing more significant challenges. This ability to think on your feet and find solutions is invaluable at work. “Also, multitasking. Juggling multiple responsibilities at home, such as cooking, helping with homework and managing household chores, can translate into improved multitasking abilities in the workplace.”

Rhonda Foster and her family

Friends don’t let friends quit

Ronda Foster was just 14 years old when she felt called to be an oncology doctor because her dad was diagnosed with cancer. She watched gratefully as the hospital staff took care of him, saying, “I felt blessed by how they treated him.” She wanted to grow up and do the same for someone else someday.

Unfortunately, another man entered her life who interrupted the plan. “I had a boyfriend who didn’t want me to go to school,” she says. Foster did attend community college and was able to work her way up from being a certified nursing assistant to a licensed vocational nurse to a registered nurse.

But Foster had potential to do even more — and her best friend knew it. She encouraged Foster to attend an orientation at University of Phoenix. Well, encouraged may be too soft.

“She basically dragged me there!” Foster says with a laugh. She ultimately enrolled in a hybrid RN to BSN program that blended online instruction with classroom-based clinicals.

Thus began a series of changes for Foster. She divorced and earned two master’s degrees, including her Master of Science in Nursing and her MBA/HC* at UOPX. She moved from California to Colorado for love, remarried, grew her family from two children to four, and moved again to her current home in Arizona.

She specializes in oncology/hematology and quality management, thereby honoring her childhood goal to help others facing difficult health issues. She’s not done. As she pursues her Doctor of Health Administration, she has temporarily stepped out of the workforce to complete her degree online. She knows, however, that she’ll bring more knowledge and greater impact to the field once she completes her terminal degree. 

What is your ultimate career goal?

“To become a chief nursing officer!”

You live with your husband and four children, two of whom are on the cusp of adulthood while the other two are in the throes of toddlerhood. How did you balance priorities?

“It took time and energy,” Foster says, reflecting on that time after her divorce when she juggled single parenthood with school. “I would go to bed shortly after midnight and wake up before 5 a.m.”

Foster’s parents stepped in to help, coming over at 6:15 each morning to help get the children to school. They pitched in during the afternoons as well.

Foster’s husband today fully supports her and her goals. A nanny helps with child care, and Foster has learned the value of flexibility. Sometimes, she’ll head to the library to study, for example, so the kids don’t have to navigate the confusion of mommy being home but not available.

What is your greatest challenge?

“Education is my passion,” she says. “Education is what helped me see all the paths that I could take.”

She laughs, elaborating that even during her free time, she is “watching shows that align with healthcare and education and reading case studies.”

Sometimes, however, our greatest strength can also be our greatest challenge. For Foster, that means gratifying her interests while also balancing her priorities as wife and mother. 

Which parenting skills helped you most succeed at work? 

“Consistency, collaboration and strategic planning — all very important for me to be successful in my professional, educational and personal environment.”

*This degree program has since been retired.

Making — and taking — her second chance

Jamesha Whitlock doesn’t let anything slow her down. Not a busy day working as a certified medical assistant in endocrinology, when she cares for more than 50 patients in one shift. (She still smiles from ear to ear.) Not even a pregnancy that derailed her plans to become a doctor. 

Jamesha Whitlock graduation photo

Jamesha Whitlock 

“The plan was [always] to go to medical school,” Whitlock says. “I had dreamed of the day I could go to school.”

Shortly after graduating from high school, however, Whitlock found herself at home with a new baby. “I was going crazy watching my fellow grads go off to school and get started. I was feeling left out.” 

That’s when she saw a University of Phoenix commercial. She could go to college, she discovered, and earn her degree 100% online. “I thought that was just perfect because I could do this at home with my baby,” she explains.

Whitlock did some research, applied and was excited to get into the Bachelor of Science in Health Administration program.

Her experience had some starts and stops. She enrolled in March 2018 and took several breaks over the years to move, switch jobs and nail down co-parenting. Eventually, however, her grandmother stepped in to help with Whitlock’s now two children so Whitlock could focus on school and work.

“That’s the thing with University of Phoenix,” Whitlock says of the school support she received while taking breaks. “It is really smooth. You talk to your advisor, [and] they help you take the break and get back in.”

In March 2024, Whitlock traveled from her home in Illinois to attend commencement in Arizona. It was a proud moment and one she shared with her mother, grandmother, children, brother and friend, who all attended with her. “It was a great experience to walk,” she exudes. “My little support bubble was with me.”

Today, as she juggles working and parenting, she has more goals. She has her eyes set on a master’s degree, but maybe after a little downtime first. 

Why strive to get the bachelor’s degree?

“Without the degree, it would be more of a challenge to present myself to employers that I am someone they are looking for,” Whitlock explains. “I wanted to have something to make me stand out as a candidate for future positions.”  

What is the hardest part about being a working mother?

“Not having the free time, yes in terms of self-care. God knows I would like some of that!” she says.

What are your goals today?

“To land a better-paying job and return to school.”

How has being a mother made you a stronger employee and student?

“Being a mother has absolutely made me a stronger employee and student because now I have two additional reasons to achieve all of my goals and be great role model for my children.”

Which parenting skills have helped you most succeed at work? 

“Punctuality, time management, active listening, empathy and consistency are just a few! As a busy mom, I am always keeping up with deadlines/appointments, so learning how to effectively manage my time day by day was paramount. That skill has also helped me keep up with work deadlines as well. Being an effective listener is a life skill, in my opinion, although I know it doesn’t come naturally for most people. But being a mom with young kids, it is important to me that they always feel they are being heard and understood.”

Headshot of Stephanie Hoselton

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stephanie Hoselton has always enjoyed a good story. She gained an English degree from Texas A&M University with the plan to teach or write. As life happens, she fell into recruiting and didn’t look back. Stephanie spent over a decade in agency recruiting, placing candidates at SAP, Verizon and across financial services and healthcare. She started in Talent Acquisition with the University of Phoenix in 2021. She loves hearing candidates tell their career stories and sharing the story that is University of Phoenix.

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