When Malika Humphries enrolled in the Master of Education in Digital Learning and Leading online program at Lamar University, she embarked on a journey to find what’s next.
“When I realized I wanted to do what I’m made for and not just what I’m paid for, I went back to school to get my education degree,” Humphries said. “This program inspired me to write a children’s book that focused on character education. My book is called Princess Wears Jeans. It’s about building a sisterhood among girls in a culture of many differences.”
Humphries, a senior project manager for Delta Airlines in her hometown of Atlanta, graduated from Lamar University in May 2018. Before she enrolled, she was part owner of a medical transportation service with a background in information technology.
“The program caught my attention because I had never heard of digital leadership,” she said. “When I looked at other programs, I didn’t see that. Those programs were more focused on education within the school system. I was looking for something different. I like that this one prepares you to be a digital leader, not just for a specific career, but in life. I was hungry for that, which was why I kept looking at Lamar University.”
In addition to working a full-time job, Humphries has a full plate at home. She and her husband, Joshua, have three children — Caleb (14), Canaan (12) and Hannah (10). The online format allowed Humphries to balance school, work and family.
“With such a busy schedule with my kids playing sports and a plethora of extra-curricular activities, having the freedom to do schoolwork in different places was huge,” she said. “I found myself working at my kids’ games, while they were at practice and at the grocery store after I had my husband run in. I was able to leverage the time, pretty much remotely. I loved the flexibility — that was number one.”
Change of Course
After Humphries graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems from Georgia Southern University in 2001, she spent the majority of her career working as a project manager in the government, financial, telecommunication and healthcare business sectors.
Humphries worked full time while running her transportation business. She also is a devout Children’s Ministry Teacher and serves as a substitute teacher in at-risk schools.
“I wanted to do something more meaningful,” she said. “I was at a point in my life where I wanted to leave a legacy for my children. I wanted them to learn how to follow their dreams and not just a career path. I needed to be a better example by following my own. We did the business for five years and then dissolved it because we lacked the vision and resources to expand. So back to the drawing board, without a clue on what to draw.”
When Humphries made the decision to return to college in 2016, she wanted to achieve her goal of earning an advanced degree while discovering which one of her passions to pursue next.
“The goal has changed from what I thought I was going to be doing,” she said. “It’s amazing. I consider myself a digital leader. I had to believe in myself, then take that bold step to prove it. I’ve been consistent and persistent and successfully finished my goal with this program. Princess Wears Jeans is in the final stages of publishing. The plan is to form an interactive book club in the local school systems to equip the next level of young leaders in character, love and respect for one another.”
EDLD 5304: Leading Organizational Change was just one of many of Humphries’ favorite courses in the online M.Ed. in Digital Learning and Leading curriculum because it helped guide her back to purpose.
“It was an important course because finding your ‘why’ is connected to purpose,” she said. “Not why are you working or will work next, but why are you here in this world? What change are you bringing to make a difference and make the world a better place? It was powerful and thought-provoking and helped me focus on not what I was doing but why I was doing it.”
The Next Chapter
Although not all of Humphries’ friends and family members understood why she wanted to earn a master’s degree in education with so much professional experience, her household was a strong support system.
“It was exciting for my children because a grown person in the house was in school,” she said. “An ‘A’ was something we celebrated together. We were able to have dialog about our school work and celebrate progress. It was amazing to see my husband apply concepts I was learning at his job and even more liberating to see that it worked! I was applying as I was learning, which made it stick! My husband and my kids were my accountability partners; we were all in this together.”
The family made the trip to Beaumont for the commencement ceremony to see the fruits of her labor and celebrate the big accomplishment together.
“They all came with me, which was really important to my husband,” she said. “My husband insisted that I attend graduation. He said the kids needed to see what their day would look and feel like. I was so glad that I did.”
Now, Humphries hopes to continue doing what she loves as a children’s book author and a master’s degree holder. Her daughter, Hannah, has already started writing her own books which shows the power of leading by example.
“This M.Ed. program teaches you to be a producer, rather than a consumer,” she said. “Every work product we produced was authentic and specific to us. We weren’t bogged down with test and study guides. The professors were more of our mentors and actually partnered in our success in this program. I tapped into a place I hadn’t been to in my life. The hunger hasn’t ceased.
“They say that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. It became like that. It didn’t feel like work; it didn’t feel like school. I enjoyed it. Throw everything you know about school out of the window with this non-traditional program. Be ready to uncover who you are. Be ready to be equipped to do something about it. Be ready to be comfortable being uncomfortable. This is about you and the change you are here to lead and leave.”
Learn more about the Lamar University online M.Ed. in Digital Learning and Leading program.