After Melissa Warren, Nancy Kirkland and Delphine Nchako began Logan University’s online Master of Science in Health Informatics (MS-HI) program in January 2020, it didn’t take long for them to realize they needed to lean on one another for support. They started a group text message to ask questions about assignments, coordinated Zoom meetings so they could talk through challenges, and bounced ideas off one another through a discussion board. They included Nafisat Bale in their collaborations when she joined their cohort several months later.
“The texts, Zooms and discussion board posts not only motivated us to stay on track in the program, but they also brought us closer together,” said Nancy, a data technician at Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation in Memphis, Tennessee. “Over time, we went from being just classmates to becoming friends.”
Eager to meet in-person after more than a year of communicating online, they decided to connect during the fall 2021 commencement ceremony December 17-18.
“I saved a table so all of us could sit together before the graduation awards ceremony,” said Melissa, Logan’s associate director of strategic performance. “Even though Nafisat wasn’t able to come, it was amazing for Nancy, Delphine and I to finally get together face-to-face.”
During the ceremony, Melissa earned Logan’s Service, Leaders Made and RESPECT awards. Nancy obtained a Leaders Made Award, and Delphine received a RESPECT Award. “We had a lot to celebrate, so we went back to my office where MS-HI program director Dr. Deshae Redden and Logan’s entire strategic performance department ended up throwing a surprise graduation party for us,” Melissa said. “It was wonderful to be together, laughing and talking.”
Melissa, Nancy and Delphine attended the commencement ceremony at the William D. Purser, DC Center the following morning while Nafisat livestreamed it from her home in Virginia. “My MS-HI classmates sent me a picture of my seat at the ceremony, which was very sweet,” Nafisat said. “I also appreciated having my name displayed on the screen and my name called even though I wasn’t there in-person.”
After months of supporting one another from afar, Melissa, Nancy and Delphine enjoyed walking across the stage together. “Finishing the program with the women I started it with was rewarding and sentimental,” Nancy said.
The graduates wrapped up commencement weekend with a Sunday breakfast at Cracker Barrel, and all four continue to keep in touch. They texted photos of their diplomas after receiving them in the mail in early January. They send job openings to one another. Melissa is planning a trip to Memphis this spring to visit Nancy.
“Although the MS-HI is an online program, the friendships you’re able to make can last a lifetime,” Melissa said. “I advise new students to connect with their cohorts. You’re all going through the same thing and can support one another every step of the way. You are never alone.”