An alumna explains how her family and friends made it possible for her to complete her doctorate.

As told to Camille LeFevre
July 2014

Dr. Amy K. Swan. Photo credit: J. Blue Swan
Dr. Amy K. Swan
Photo credit: J. Blue Swan

DEGREE EARNED: Ph.D. in Management

WHAT ELSE I WAS DOING AT THE TIME: I started my Walden studies while working full time as a consultant. I am also a single mom.

MY BIGGEST CHALLENGE: In 2007, I had the first of eight heart surgeries to fix an irregularity with my heartbeat, which occurred after cancer treatment (I’ve been in remission since 1999). Facing health challenges put things in perspective for me: My health issues are really a postscript; everyone has something going on. Plato said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” We all have challenges—and we all have the power and strength within us to get through them.

WHAT MY FAMILY DID TO HELP ME: My son Jeremiah is my hero. He’s always been my reason for being and my inspiration for moving forward. He was a teenager when I started my Ph.D. program. He knew the struggle I was facing and helped around the house so I could study. He always cooked healthy, fresh meals for us. He didn’t complain once about walking the dog. He knew I needed him to be strong. I was driven to do everything I could to get healthy and be there for him.

WHO KEPT ME MOTIVATED: Unequivocally, my faculty mentor, Dr. David Banner, inspired and encouraged me. His mentoring style was the consistent thread of positive reinforcement throughout my time at Walden. He has four words he tells his students: “You can do it.” His wisdom and guidance helped me see that my inherent perseverance and persistence are strengths. It’s something I will always have—and can share with others. I also forged friendships with other students. We’d mentor each other through panic moments and rough spots. We are a community that understands what it means to do the work, to reach our goals, and ultimately to make a difference in the world.

HIGH POINTS: My video entry for the Scholars of Change contest won an honorable mention in 2012. The video is about my Facebook page called Kindness in Action that focuses on sharing acts of kindness around the world. In the first week, Kindness in Action was liked by people on six continents and in 50 countries. Kindness is a small gesture, but its impact has huge results. People feel good about sharing what they are doing and their posts positively impact others.

MY NEXT BIG CHALLENGE: Walden has had a tremendous influence on me. Now that I’ve graduated, every decision I make is founded on how it will make a difference for others. I look forward to securing a faculty position that will enable me to create a collaborative community centered on the knowledge-sharing practices I learned at Walden. After all, what is the value of all the perseverance in the world if we’re not working toward a greater good?

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