Valissa White

Valissa White, 31, started working on her career while she was still in high school. She got her cosmetology license and saw herself one day owning a beauty salon.

Today, the single parent of a special needs 10-year-old sees herself with a PhD instead.

On Dec. 15, she graduated from the University of Louisville through the Master of Science in Human Resources and Organization Development online program and a goal of getting her PhD before she’s 40.

White, a Tennessee native and first-generation college student, had a change of plans after her son, Landon, was born with a severe heart condition and other special needs. She worked in a bank and a beauty salon, taking Landon to his many medical appointments in her free time.

She never forgot her dream, though, and came to UofL in 2021 to earn a business degree. She later switched to the College of Education and Human Development’s (CEHD) online Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership and Learning (BS OLL) program. She took only one year to get her undergraduate degree, then immediately started on her master’s. 

She made time to get involved in college life, and served on the board of UofL’s Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Student Chapter. This year, she became vice president of the UofL CardinOLL Ambassador program for BS OLL students and alumni.

“I didn’t come to play,” said White, who maintained a 4.0 GPA. “I look at the big picture all the time.”

She singled out the CEHD LEAD program and  TRIO Student Support Services for helping her juggle her many responsibilities. A Family Scholar House scholarship recipient, White sought out the scholarships she needed to make sure she had no debt when she graduated. 

“I have overcome enormous challenges which could have stopped me but didn’t,” she said. “Instead, I was able to utilize UofL resources and excel quickly through this degree.”

White knows well that life is a winding road, and is looking for a job with the flexibility she needs for Landon. She is ready to work “wherever God places me,” she said, adding “while change is inevitable, growth is optional.”