Learning has been a family affair the past few years for Lynn Christian and Haley Mattera.
They took classes together at Mississippi University for Women and graduated on Friday with their bachelor’s degrees in nursing.
Christian, 56, of Belden, started pursuing her bachelor’s in nursing at the W in 1982.
“I did not complete the first semester,” she said. “I dropped out of school and soon started a family.”
After her son was born, Christian became a medical assistant and worked in various doctors’ offices. The desire to complete her degree never went away, Christian said.
“In 1999, I graduated with an ADN (associate’s degree in nursing) from a community college in Corpus Christi,” she said. “My daughter was born while I was in nursing school, but I was determined to finish that time. Returning to the W and completing what I started 39 years ago has been a goal of mine for many years. Being able to do that with my daughter has just been a bonus.”
Mattera, 23, of Mooreville, said she always wanted to work in healthcare, but didn’t know what career path to take until high school.
“In 2015, the summer before my senior year of high school, my grandma passed away at a hospital in Texas,” she said. “After leaving the hospital, I kept thinking about the healthcare team, especially nursing, and knew this is what I wanted to do for other people and their families.”
The duo took all of their classes together at the W. Both graduated with a 4.0 grade point average and were on the president’s list every semester.
“We didn’t plan to be in the same classes, it just worked out that way,” Christian said. “She may say differently, but for the record, I applied and was accepted first.”
During the past year or so of classes at the W, everything was online, both Christian and Mattera said. The pandemic impacted their ability to complete community projects and service hours.
“Some creativity was needed to get the clinical hours with all the restrictions,” Christian said.
After graduation, Christian plans to continue in her career as a clinical research nurse coordinator.
“Completing my degree was a personal goal,” she said.
After earning her associate’s, Mattera started working on the COVID unit at her local hospital before starting her current job at Sanctuary Hospice.
“I absolutely love it,” she said of her job.
Christian hopes her family’s story will encourage others to pursue their educational goals, “no matter how old they are, how long it’s been and know that any of life’s obstacles can be overcome.”
“I didn’t always make the best choices in life but I never have given up hope of completing one day,” she said.
Mattera agreed that her family has been through some hard times. Like her mother, she has a positive outlook. “We have been through some hard times in the past couple of years, but I think it is important to take care of yourself and strive to accomplish every goal.”
Christian and Mattera both said they were glad the W offered in-person ceremonies.
“My daughter was not able to have a pinning ceremony or graduation when she finished her ADN and I am so happy for her that she gets to walk this time,” Christian said.
“I graduated in May 2020 from Itawamba Community College with my associate’s degree in nursing,” she said. “I wasn’t able to have a normal pinning or commencement due to COVID. Being able to walk for my bachelor’s degree finally lets me celebrate my accomplishments. I will forever remember this memory with my mom as something special we did together.”
For Christian, commencement is the culmination of a 39-year goal.
“It is a long-awaited completion of a goal I have had for 39 years,” she said. “Sharing this experience with my daughter is just extra special. This is most likely the end of my education, but for my daughter, I hope she continues learning and fulfills all her dreams.”
The W commencement ceremonies
Mississippi University for Women is scheduled to host several in-person Commencement ceremonies to celebrate summer 2021 graduates and 2020 graduates. Commencement ceremonies for 2021 summer graduates were held Friday.
Commencement ceremonies for May 2020, August 2020 and December 2020 graduates will be held on campus Friday, Aug. 6. The ceremonies were to be live streamed at muw.edu for family members and loved ones to enjoy at home or on a phone, tablet or computer.