Two Generations, Two Graduations: HSA Grad Shares Milestone with Daughter

Written byFaith Derouen

“I was still able to do my job, be a mom, be a wife, be a caregiver, and do all the other things because I had so much structure through the professors. They are wonderful. They made it doable."

HSA online graduate, Karen Williams, smiles for headshot
Karen Williams
Graduation Year
Health Services Administration
Bastrop, LA

As Karen Williams proudly walked across the stage to accept her bachelor’s degree from UL Lafayette, her eldest daughter’s own high school graduation was still fresh in their family’s minds from the day before. 

Their parallel accomplishments not only highlight their individual perseverance, but also the unyielding support of their family that pushes them forward. 

“Now that things are settling down with my education and I'm almost done, all of my mama worries are coming out,” she says. “But it’s been pretty neat. We took pictures together with our caps and gowns. It’s just a once-in-a-lifetime type of thing.” 

Putting Family First 

Williams knew early on that she was meant to be a mother — that’s the reason she took a break from school in 2001 to pursue a career as an LPN. 

But when the COVID-19 pandemic swept through nearly two decades later, Williams was met with an opportunity to reflect on her career for the first time in her adult life. 

“During COVID, I had a lot of time to think about where I stood and all that I had hoped to accomplish to that point,” she says. “I wasn’t thrilled with where I was from a professional standpoint and knew I needed to make some hard choices. This is when I decided to go back to school.” 

Williams convened a family meeting to discuss the changes they would face as she pursued her degree.

“I feel like my husband and two girls had to make more of a sacrifice than I did,” she says. “It’s something that we sat down and talked through before I went back to school, because there were things that I would have to miss — we just had to do life differently.” 

Empowered by the support of her family, Williams set off on her mission to earn her B.S. in Health Services Administration — a degree that would allow her to leverage her decades of experience in healthcare while transitioning to a new career path. 

Finding a Groove 

The transition back to academia wasn’t without its challenges. 

With a well-established career as an LPN, Williams wasn’t sure how the curriculum would align with her experience.  

“It was difficult at first because I've been in the field for 20 years, so a lot of the things that I was learning were already parts of my daily job,” she says. “When you get so used to a routine, some things get pushed to the wayside, so different classes or subjects would pop up every semester that I'd be like, ‘I hadn’t thought about that in a hot minute, let me look at it in a different way.’” 

While her job experience provided some familiarity with the coursework, Williams understood the importance of creating a set schedule for school.  

“I don't think I would have made it had I'm not carved out dedicated hours every single week,” she says. “Friday afternoons and Sundays were dedicated to school, period. No matter if there was only one assignment, no matter if I only had one class, or it was a summer session, it didn't matter. I had to make myself do it and couldn't get out of that groove.” 

As Williams honed her schedule, she encountered a new challenge familiar to online students: personal accountability. 

“I had to have true self-motivation. I had to organize myself,” she says. “There’s not a teacher at the front of the classroom where you can just raise your hand. 

Yes, they are accessible. And yes, they are very helpful and accommodating. But when they're not live and in front of the class, it's just different and you have to adjust to that.” 

While adapting to this new mode of learning, Williams found herself balancing her schoolwork with the responsibility of being her mother’s caregiver. 

“My mom is chronically ill, and I spent a huge portion of my time staying in the hospital with her,” she explains. “But my husband and daughters filled gaps that would not and could not have been filled without their help.”

 Williams says the structured nature of the program allowed her to fulfill all her roles while earning her degree.

“Most of the HSA classes had such an accommodating structure, so I could plan out my weeks in advance,” she says. “I was still able to do my job, be a mom, be a wife, be a caregiver, and do all the other things because I had so much structure through the professors. They are wonderful. They made it doable.” 

Planning for the Future 

With her bachelor’s degree on the horizon, Williams is already laying the groundwork for the next phase of her academic journey.  

“I was accepted into the Master of Legal Studies program with the University of Tennessee, and I start there in the fall,” she says. “That's where I plan to go with all of this, the legal compliance route. That's my main interest. I would like to be a compliance officer or have some sort of claims management role.” 

Meanwhile, her daughter’s impending high school graduation adds an extra layer of celebration to their family’s journey. 

As they prepare to mark this shared milestone, Williams knows their encouragement will continue to guide her forward. 

“My husband and my girls, they’ve 100% been my support system,” she says. “I would not be able to graduate without them.” 

Advance your nursing practice and your career. Learn more about the B.S. in Health Services Administration online program at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

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