Ronessa Strickland-Roberts explains how what she’s learned at Walden has put her in a position to launch a nonprofit.

By Amy DerBedrosian
January 2013

Ronessa Strickland-Roberts
Ronessa Strickland-Roberts. Photo credit: Focus Studios.

DEGREE EARNED: Master of Public Health (M.P.H.)

CURRENT PROGRAM: Ph.D. in Public Health

HOW I PAID FOR IT: Student loans and full-time positions at the Orange County Health Department and Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando.

HOW LONG IT TOOK: Two years

WHAT ELSE I’VE DONE AT THE SAME TIME: I’m currently a program manager at Planned Parenthood. I also started my own nonprofit, Inspiration and Change Inc., in January 2011 to provide education and services that take a holistic approach to poverty and health disparities in my community.

HOW I FOUND TIME TO STUDY: I do my coursework very late at night. Fortunately, I’m a night person, but I definitely don’t get a lot of sleep. I also take full advantage of technology. I have an iPhone and an iPad, and they allow me to do schoolwork while I’m away from home. Technology is my biggest lifesaver.

HOW MY FAMILY HELPS: My mom lives three hours away and comes to help out a lot, and my kids understand why I’m doing this. I have a 14-year-old and a 21-year-old. It’s hard when you don’t have time to do the things you want to do with your family, but they understand I won’t be in school forever.

MOST CHALLENGING PART: The time commitment is always a challenge. But if I say I’m going to do something, I do it.

WHAT KEEPS ME MOTIVATED: I had my daughter when I was 15. I want my children to have more opportunities. I realized I had to lead by example, which made me more determined in my own career. I always knew I wanted to keep people healthy. My degrees are part of my goals. I plan to be involved in research, so a Ph.D. will give me much more credibility; people will see I’ve met a high standard.

HIGHEST POINT: I really enjoyed the residencies and meeting the faculty. A lot of them are in Florida, so I’ve been in touch with them since.

BIGGEST CHANGE IN MY LIFE SINCE GETTING MY DEGREE: My degree has helped me help others. I’m doing interventions with teenage girls to prevent pregnancy and STDs. This is a direct result of getting my master’s degree from Walden. Also, I’d always dreamed of starting my nonprofit, but I wanted to make sure I was fully prepared; I have the confidence to do it now. Passions are great, but you need a foundation of knowledge and a plan to make an impact.

MY NEXT BIG CHALLENGE: Finding the time for my dissertation! I’m writing it on trauma and HIV acquisition. I hope it will help health departments and clinics understand what they can do to be effective. The more I learn, the better the services I can provide for my community.

Tell us how you did it at myWaldenImpact@waldenu.edu.