College of Education, Criminal Justice, & Human ServicesCollege of Education, Criminal Justice, & Human ServicesUniversity of CincinnatiCollege of Education, Criminal Justice, & Human Services

College of Education, Criminal Justice, & Human Services

Human Services Graduate Clears Life’s Hurdles and Continues to Aim High

shawna mathews

By M.K. Meier, Communications Intern, CECH

Shawna Mathews, BS ’13, has endured many hardships, but they have not hampered her from earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Substance Abuse Counseling. During UC’s Commencement ceremony in December, her family celebrated her incredible achievement.

“I’m living proof that where there is a will, there is a way, even if you are a broke, single mother. I am so grateful for the opportunities I have received at UC,” Mathews said.

Mathews, 28, is a single mom of three boys, ages 10, eight, and seven. As if raising three sons while going to school isn’t challenging enough, her eldest son was born with a rare birth defect called amniotic band syndrome, which requires regular surgeries to repair and stop the regression of the disease in his deformed hands and feet. In addition to caring for her son through 18 surgeries thus far, she has endured six laparotomy surgeries. Throughout her many doctors’ visits, hospital stays, and recoveries, Mathews has persevered and continued to pursue her education.

In fact, the day after her last surgery, she took final exams for her associate degree at Sinclair College in Dayton. Soon after, she transferred to UC’s fully online program in Substance Abuse Counseling. Mathews said, “If it weren’t for the flexibility of the online program at UC, I would not have been able to pursue my education.  I simply couldn’t manage the traditional campus program–either from a financial or time management standpoint.”

Her initial transition to UC was not without its hurdles. She failed her first three courses as she learned to adjust to the challenges of an online program. It took discipline and a conscious adjustment to her schedule to balance family life with her course load. However, after taking several fast-track classes in the summer, Mathews was able to acclimate to the online environment.  She credits her success to professors who used numerous technology tools to teach complex concepts in a virtual world, including discussion boards, uploaded videos, whiteboard/chalkboard demonstrations, and group Skype conversations. 

Mathews acknowledges that she could not have accomplished her goals without her family who supported her on days when she wanted to quit. She is especially thankful for her father’s support. Her aunt and uncle, Melanie and Paul Drerup, both graduates of the College of Applied Science (’89 and ’87), are proud of Shawna and her ability to balance family and education.

Mathews plans to work in the substance abuse counseling field while she earns the Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC) license. She is also applying for an online master’s program in social work.