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On her own, but not alone, single mom earns degree with university support

Amanda Goodman

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2020 graduates.

Dec. 14, 2020, is a day Audrey Magee-Davey has been looking forward to for a long time. That is when she’ll accomplish a major milestone, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Arizona State University’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

The 39-year-old single mother of two has technically been working toward this goal since earning an associate degree to become a registered nurse in 2011. 

“I’m so excited! Over the years there were a lot of things that impeded my ability to go back to school so it just never worked out,” Magee-Davey said, “But I knew if I didn’t just start, I was never going to do it so when I moved back to Arizona in 2018 I said okay this is it, I’ve got to get this done.”

In a way, it was like coming home, because she’s already a Sun Devil. In 2003 Magee-Davey graduated from ASU with a Bachelor of Arts in French.  

The second time around though was different. As anticipated, going to school, working a full-time job as a nurse, plus picking up a part-time job all while managing a household and taking care of her children was stressful. And that was before the global pandemic.

COVID-19 brought on new levels of responsibility and exhaustion. 

Like so many parents, Magee-Davey had to manage her kids’ school at home. And at work, she was dealing with a crisis, unlike anything she’d ever seen before in the health care field.

“I’ve been a nurse for 9 years and I’ve never had so many patients die, I’ve never experienced that in my entire career so it’s been a really hard year,” she said.

If there were ever a time to justify taking a pause from her program, 2020 was it. Magee-Davey seriously considered it.

“I thought, ya know I’m almost done and I’ve been doing this degree the whole time under a lot of stress, I just have to finish.”

One of the key factors in her decision to carry on was that Edson College's RN-BSN program is fully online, giving her the flexibility she needed to continue. That coupled with the support from her ASU Online success coach and the program’s faculty helped her not only survive but thrive. 

She has a 3.91 GPA and will graduate Summa Cum Laude but perhaps her favorite part of this achievement is the example it sets for her kids. 

“It was important for them to see that it’s good to apply yourself even when the external circumstances are not ideal. I think getting a degree is really important especially when you know what you want to do. So it’s a big deal for me to have my children see me succeed.”

On the cusp of her second bachelor’s degree from ASU, we talked about what she’s learned throughout her Sun Devil experiences and solicited her advice for current students. 

Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

Answer: During the time I have spent at ASU — over 6 years now! — I have learned a lot. When I was at ASU for my first degree in the early 2000s, I found a community that accepted me for who I am. This university has widened my perspective on the world and opened my eyes to different cultures and new people. This gave me the opportunity to grow as a person, to be more accepting of new experiences, and brave enough to try new things and take risks. ASU gave me the opportunity to study abroad, to meet new people, and experience new things I may not have been able to if I choose a different path.  

Now that I have been able to return to ASU, I brought additional life experiences that I could share with others and use to continue to develop my profession in a way that can return to the community once I graduate. ASU has helped me to be proud of my accomplishments and who I am as a person.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Professor Natalie Heywood showed me the potential nurses have to work in many different facets and to continue to be lifelong learners. She helped me to see that I have the potential to continue to pursue further education and achieve my goals.  

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: What you learn in school is yours to keep forever. It is okay to change majors, to take a class just because it looks interesting, or to follow a different path. The important part is that you stay curious, stay focused and be open to trying new things. 

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: If someone gave me $40 million dollars, I would want to use it to help underserved populations have better access to health care, mental health resources and continuing education.