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May 13, 2024

Staff Spotlight: Melinda and Jaylah Wilson

Melinda and Jaylah graduating

In the pursuit of education, there are often twists and turns. But what happens when that journey is shared by two members of the same family? Meet Melinda and Jaylah Wilson, a dynamic mother-daughter duo whose paths to graduation intertwine in perseverance, support, and faith.

Melinda has earned her bachelor’s degree in Business Management. She works as the Executive Assistant for CFO and VP for Operations and Business Development. Her daughter, Jaylah, has earned her Master’s of Strategic Leadership (MSL). She works as the Associate Dean for Student Belonging. 

Jaylah and Melinda smile in front of Roberts shield.

What was your journey to graduation?

Melinda: When I graduated from high school in 1988, I wanted to pursue college. But then, my mom passed. So when that happened, plans changed.

I was working at a pharmacy for several years until I got laid off. That was my wake-up call. It’s when I realized I was going to need more education. It was scary.

To make things worse, the college I wanted to attend closed. I told myself, “I don't want to do this anymore.” I started doubting “my why” about going back to school, but God used Jaylah to tell me, “Mom, you can't quit. You know you've got to do this.”

My husband, daughter, and friends kept telling me, “Keep going, keep going, don’t look back.” So I decided to try again. I finally found a new school and earned my associate degree in Business Administration.

Melinda smiles while wearing cap and gown.

Melinda graduating with her associate degree

I wanted to keep going. But when I started my first semester of my bachelor’s degree, Jaylah was getting ready to graduate from high school. So I had to put the brakes on again until I came to Roberts. I found the Business Management bachelor’s degree completion program that made it easier to finish what I started.

Jaylah: My bachelor’s degree is in Psychology, but I found myself questioning my original plan of becoming a counselor. Now, using what I’ve learned in the Master’s in Strategic Leadership (MSL), I want to be a college president someday.

Before starting this degree, my purpose was just to get more money. But Roberts helped me find a deeper purpose than just working to earn. Those classes have helped me navigate this stage of my career, how to be a leader, how to plan things strategically, and how to serve others well. So it's been wonderful!

Jaylah and Melinda smile.

How does it feel to graduate alongside each other?

Melinda: It's phenomenal! I call her my “Mini-Me,” but the 2.0 version of me. It’s been such a wonderful experience to watch her grow and mature into a beautiful young lady.

Jaylah: It's definitely amazing. My mom is one of my biggest inspirations. I’m so proud of her. She’s a working mom and wife… I only had to take care of my dog! I couldn’t imagine doing what she does.

Melinda and Jaylah.

How did you support each other in school?

Jaylah: We were each other’s moral support. As she mentioned, she lost her mother. So, I always want to support her and tell her how proud of her I am, because that's something that her mom would do if she was here. 

Melinda: Besides what Jaylah mentioned, there was another huge way she took care of me. 

In September, three months before I graduated, my husband Sam had a small heart attack. He’s okay and getting better every day! But when it happened, that was difficult. I had to get extensions on assignments and take a step back.

But Jaylah was there for me. She'd make sure I had dinner. She'd make sure if my son needed to go to work, she'd take him. It was especially difficult because it happened right when the finish line was in sight. But Jaylah’s support got me over that final hurdle. 

My kids know I never quit. My mother always told me this quote: If a task is once begun, never leave it ‘til it's done. Be the labor great or small…

Jaylah: Do it well, or not at all.

Melinda, Melinda's husband, and Jaylah's dog.

Melinda, her husband Sam, and Jaylah’s dog Baxter

How has earning this degree helped you excel in your current role?

Melinda: I’ve been able to take what I learned in class and apply it to my current job. I’ve been helping our Vice President for Operations and Business Development restructure our administrative departments to better serve the whole university. 

I’ve also taken what I learned about emotional intelligence to better bridge communications between departments. I’m proud of what I’ve been able to help with.

Jaylah: I’ve become a more thoughtful servant leader. I’ve also grown in my knowledge of finance and managing budgets, something I’ve needed in my new role. 

It’s been wonderful to feel confident in my knowledge! It came at just the right time.

The Wilson family.

The Wilsons

What advice do you have for those considering going back to school?

Melinda: It doesn't matter what age you are. I saw a news report of a 90-year-old woman who just graduated from high school. If she can do it, I know I can do it. Seeing my new degree made it all worth it.

In Phillippians, God said He’ll finish the good work He started in us. You’ve got to give Him time as it doesn’t happen overnight, but trust that He WILL complete it.

Jaylah: Do one class at a time. If you want your master's, just push through. It really is worth it. It's transformational for your life. Roberts is just the right place to be to achieve your degree.

If you are a spiritual person, you’ll find your people here. Your professors are going to pray before class. They will pray with you if you are struggling in school or have something going on.

Do you have any special shoutouts?

Jaylah: Shoutout to James Kerwin, adjunct professor, and Professor of Applied Management and Decision Sciences Dr. John Walker, two of my favorite professors in the MSL program. And shout out to Student Financial Services for always making it work for me to pursue my master’s degree. 

And a shoutout to my dog, Baxter, for all those late nights!

Baxter, a black dog.

Melinda: Shoutout to my husband, Sam, my son Elijah, and Susan Sullivan, Instructor of Business and Marketing. Also, the Career Development and Learning Centers!

Click here to learn more about Jaylah’s program, the Master’s of Strategic Leadership.

Click here to learn more about Melinda’s program, the Bachelor of Business Management (degree completion).


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