Eastern Michigan University (EMU) has become a home away from home for Iman Ali and her family — her husband, Nazih, and their three children, Bilal, Layla and Jenna.

Ali graduated from EMU’s online Master of Arts (M.A.) in Educational Psychology program in 2022. Two years earlier, she completed a Bachelor of Science in Children and Families at the university.

“Me, my husband and all three of our children earned degrees from Eastern Michigan,” she said. “They were very proud and excited that I took such a step to earn a master’s degree in my fifties.”

After transitioning from the undergraduate to the graduate program, Ali landed a position as a family support specialist at Child Care Network in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

“I was fortunate to do an internship with CCN during my undergraduate program,” she said. “The organization advocates for and supports children and families. I was very impressed with the work they did.

“I decided my future goal was to be employed at that organization. On my last semester of graduate school, I was offered a position.”

The flexibility of the online format helped Ali move into the new role while wrapping up the online master’s degree without missing a beat.

“The online format worked out well with my schedule,” she said. “I had always wanted to go back to school, hoping for a new career path and it was the best decision of my life.”

Switching Gears

Ali is originally from Palestine. Since coming to the United States, she has longed to earn a college degree. She started by graduating with an associate degree in elementary education from Washtenaw Community College in 2018. Two years later, she completed the bachelor’s degree at EMU with a 4.0 GPA.

Before returning to school, Ali was a preschool teacher at the Michigan Islamic Academy for 10 years. As a graduate student, she was a conflict coach and case manager at the EMU Office of the Ombuds.

“I initially chose EMU due to its location near my house,” she said. “During my undergraduate program, I went to the graduate school orientation, where I learned about the different programs available.”

Motivation to Learn was one of Ali’s favorite courses in the online M.A. in Educational Psychology program.

“As a former teacher, it was my passion to motivate students and push them toward excellence,” she said. “The Motivation to Learn course taught me new skills and enhanced my knowledge on the topic.”

Ali applies the information she learned in the master’s degree program to her current role, which she started one year ago.

“One skill that I will always treasure and use in any job is the skill of writing and verbal expression,” she said. “The courses brought my writing abilities to a much higher level. Having a master’s degree helped open career opportunities for me. It brought my application to the top of the list.”

Soaring High

Ali, who still lives in Ypsilanti, celebrated her big accomplishment with her Eagle families — at home and school — by walking the graduation stage at the commencement ceremony. She believes enrolling in a master’s degree program is an important decision that needs a lot of consideration.

“I would advise potential students to make a list of pros and cons, in addition to future goals,” she said. “Speak with many people who went through the program. Speak to professors in the program. Learn about what future jobs are available with this degree and if they fit said future goals.

“Finally, do not delay. Make the choice and proceed. I have to add what my dad always says: ‘Time is passing anyway; it is your choice to want the two years to pass with a higher degree or with no degree.'”

Now that Ali is building a foundation in a new field, she hopes to someday return to her previous vocation as an educator and do both.

“The ultimate career goal is to continue to grow in my job and someday to teach college students concurrently,” she said.

The decision to return to higher education was a great one for Ali. She is happy to be another EMU eagle in her home nest.

“My dream has always been to earn a higher degree,” she said. “The degree gave me validation and opened many doors. I feel that I have earned a treasure that keeps on giving.

“There is a tremendous sense of accomplishment to have earned a higher degree while working and being a mother and wife.”

Learn more about EMU’s online M.A. in Educational Psychology program.