Woods Online student overcomes obstacles to complete education

December 14th, 2016 | SMWC

Katie Good in Cap & Gown

By Dianne Frances D. Powell

Neither cancer nor family responsibilities stopped a Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College online student from pursuing a deeply personal goal: finishing her education.

At graduation on Saturday, Katie Good is determined to walk across the stage of the Jeanne Knoerle Sports and Recreation Center and receive her degree. She recently finished an internship and is on-track to finally realize her dream.

“I never thought I wanted to walk the stage. Early on, I didn’t think it was that important,” she said. “But after everything that I’ve been through, I’m walking the stage.”

“I’m doing it!” she reiterated with conviction.

The last few years have been rough for the resident of Paris, Illinois, whose faith and strength have been tested by health issues. Inconveniently, the health challenges started in early 2014, a few months after she joined Woods Online to pursue a bachelor’s in Healthcare Administration.

In February of that year, the 47-year-old mom of three, who also holds a job in healthcare, heard what no mother wanted to hear: her daughter was diagnosed with a medical condition which left her paralyzed from the shoulders down, Good said.

Later that same year, around the holidays, Good herself was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), a cancer of the white blood cells. “Between taking care of my daughter and the chemo pills, it’s been a little bit of a rough ride,” she said. “But we’ve done it. The faculty and staff at SMWC have been amazing.”

It was during this time of trial when she truly realized that she made the right decision to attend SMWC, which she chose in 2013 over another college.

In an interview on Nov. 30, Good recalled how well the College faculty and staff showed their concern for her well-being. She said they were helpful, understanding and “extremely gracious” when she had to withdraw from her classes in the spring of 2014 because of her daughter’s illness and then again in spring 2015 because of the cancer.

Katie at her desk
Woods Online student Katie Good working in her office at Paris Community Hospital in Paris, Illinois. The healthcare administration major is a patient safety risk management assistant at the hospital.

Staff kept in touch with her during the prolonged absence with notes of greetings and prayers. When she was ready, they helped her with the transition and welcomed her back with open arms. “It felt like family,” she said. “It was sincere.”

“I felt The Woods really cares,” she said. “I’m just really glad I chose Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.”

Good made special mention of the support from her academic advisor, Frank Whittle, assistant professor of business. But Whittle had equally great words to describe her.

“She has a strong will,” Whittle, who has worked with Good over the last three years, said. “She is very proactive in everything she does.”

Good, who grew up in Champaign, Illinois, has been in remission for over a year and her daughter is slowly recovering. She divides her time between a job as a patient safety risk management assistant at Paris Community Hospital, completing the credits to graduate and caring for her daughter, who still needs round-the-clock attention.

This fall, she also spent some of her time completing a semester-long internship at the same hospital. The internship, a requirement for her degree, helped her expand her 18-year-experience on the administration side of healthcare. She worked on special projects unrelated to her job. In one project, she worked with another employee to organize the patient family advocacy council. In another, she helped set-up a teen volunteer program.

At SMWC, online students like Good get the chance to gain experience and skills to hit the ground running at graduation. The Career Development Center helps all students get internships in their respective fields. Through the internship, Good said she gained valuable experience in areas she had little experience before.

Good’s higher education journey began in the 1990s when she pursued an associate’s degree in political science from Parkland College in Champaign, Illinois. She came to SMWC in 2013 as a junior.

Good said she worked hard to finish a bachelor’s degree because she understands the importance of education. It is a dream she has had for a long time, one that is now within reach thanks to the support of her husband, family and SMWC family. “It may have taken me a very long time to do it, but I finished,” she said.

For her, finishing a bachelor’s degree is a personal accomplishment, one that despite the challenges, she urges others to pursue, as well.

"It’s important that you have the family support … it’s important that you find the right school, that you connect with the right group of people academically that are going to support you and going to help you,” she said.

"And be understanding that life is life and it is going to happen,” she added.

For her, that college was SMWC’s online program. “Whether you’re like me and you’re 20 minutes away or halfway across the country, I don’t think you’re going to find a better support network to help you” achieve your educational goals than SMWC, Good said.