Working Mom Finds Her Place at NC State

The belltower framed by trees in Spring. Photo by Marc Hall

Photo by Marc Hall.

After completing an associate degree from Wake Technical Community College, full-time worker and mother of three Joy Isley was searching for a four-year degree program that would give her skills in public and nonprofit leadership, while accommodating her current lifestyle. She found that in NC State’s Leadership in the Public Sector (LPS) online bachelor’s degree-completion program. 

“I can remember laying across my bed searching for online degree programs, and I landed at NC State’s LPS website,” Isley said. “It was really a no-brainer in picking this program as it offered me the best of all worlds: online education so that I could balance my work/home life; my desired field of interest; and it was at the school I had always dreamed of attending. Simply put, it felt like fate, and there was no need to look any further because NC State was the place for me.”

Now looking toward graduation and the future, Isley reflects on how the LPS program has affected the trajectory of her career. 

“My degree has already helped me tremendously and it hasn’t even been conferred yet,” she said. “In my current role as the front office receptionist at Pleasant Knoll Elementary in Fort Mill, South Carolina, I am using my coursework from LPS. I have learned to lead with people in mind, and I make it my personal mission to see to it that they are cared for.”

She also shared how the degree lays a foundation for her future plans.

“As I have aligned myself within the public educational space, this degree serves as a pillar in the advancement of my educational pursuits as I work towards acquiring my Master’s in Elementary Education,” Isley said. “It has also set the foundation upon which I will build my future nonprofit endeavors. But beyond this, it has given me the tools necessary to lead the classroom by cultivating and caring for my students, inspiring and igniting the future leaders inside of them so that they can do the same.” 

Isley also shared that during her time in the LPS program she was grateful to have worked with such remarkable faculty. 

“One particular person that has truly been a pillar throughout my journey is LaShica Waters,” she said. “As my academic advisor, she has been with me every step of the way and has made herself available and accessible as I’ve navigated this educational space. I attribute this accomplishment not just to myself but to LaShica, my teachers and every person that has given me that little nudge that I needed to finish strong.”

Isley also shared that sometimes those little nudges come from within, urging other students to plan and work ahead to balance working while completing a degree. 

“Prioritizing is vital to succeed in online learning because there is a wealth of coursework to study and learn,” Isley said. “Without structure, one can easily slide down the slippery slope of falling behind as deadlines pile up. My advice would be to work ahead as procrastination is the thief of excelling in education. As long as you make your coursework a priority and remember why you started your pursuit in the first place, you will work to find the necessary balance to reach the goals you have set out to attain.” 

However, she also made it clear that the hard work pays off.  

“If just pursuing a degree leads to one’s passion, then prioritizing coursework while navigating day-to-day life will be an integral part of one’s priorities in the days, weeks, months and even years that it may take to achieve such a feat,” she said. “I would highly recommend and encourage online learning as it offers flexibility, convenience, and the ability to better balance life and learning. I will say that distance education can feel distant, so it’s equally important to build community. One thing I love and value about NC State is their ability to bridge that gap by creating community and inclusion through virtual and on-site events. With that level of support, the load felt a bit lighter to carry. Now that I am making my way to the finish line, I look back and know that I had the backing of my Wolfpack the whole time.”

Isley will be celebrating her accomplishments with her family and friends at the in-person graduation ceremony. 

“NC State is a phenomenal university that champions diversity, inclusion and excellence,” she said. “This institution doesn’t just talk the talk, but they walk it as well. I speak from personal experience when I say that if the Wolfpack has your back, there’s nothing that you will lack. Thank you NC State for making me better and preparing me to effect change and lead with purpose. I will forever treasure my time here!”

Are you interested in completing your bachelor’s degree or advancing your career with a degree from NC State Online? Visit the program page or online.ncsu.edu/programs for a full list of degree and certificate programs.