Mom of 5 balances busy life on way to degree

ASU Online student and full-time worker balances busy life to graduate with honors

May 4, 2022

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2022 graduates.

Every college student juggles coursework with life’s responsibilities as they navigate their way to graduation. Some happen to juggle with a few more balls in the air, as was the case with Nicole Blossey of Gilbert, Arizona. Download Full Image

Blossey married and started a family young, which delayed her education. In the years since, she’s focused her energy on being a wife and mother and found career success in sales and leadership. 

Her husband, Adam, works for Arizona State University and completed his master’s degree there in spring 2019. As soon as the family finished celebrating his accomplishment, he proposed that Blossey take the time to focus on herself and enroll in ASU to finish her degree.

There would be a lot on her plate as she began her long-awaited journey to a diploma: A full-time job she traveled regularly for, a husband, five kids – one of whom was born with a congenital heart defect and had her second open heart surgery around the time Nicole started classes – two adorable labradoodles, one bearded dragon and a newly-purchased home.

“As much as I wanted to say, ‘no way,’ I knew he was right,” Blossey said. “Despite my fears of failure, he knew I could do it and swore he’d pick up any piece of the puzzle I dropped.”

A whirlwind two and half years later, Blossey is graduating from ASU Online this May with a Bachelor of Arts in organizational leadership with a concentration in project management. We talked with her about her post-grad plans and the challenges she faced and overcame on her way to graduating with honors.

Question: What accomplishment are you most proud of as an ASU Online student?

Answer: As I process this accomplishment, I feel far prouder than I ever envisioned I would when I agreed to this challenge my cheerleader husband put me up to. I started in fall 2019 and committed to being a full-time and year-round student as I didn’t want to drag it out any longer than I had to. It was some 75+ credits I needed to complete my degree and I proudly did so while graduating summa cum laude. 

I had every reason to quit, but I refused to. I had every reason to let off the gas and settle for a lower GPA, but I refused to. It hasn’t been easy. I owe every bit of my thanks to Adam and the kids who sacrificed so much of their time and desires to support me as I plowed through this huge feat. I love my family so much and could not have done any of this without their support.

In the words of Winnie the Pooh, “It makes such a difference to have someone who believes in you.”

Q: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

A: Initially, I wasn’t sure what major I would pursue as my goal was to land in medical sales. But I was thoroughly enjoying working as an account executive for a tradeshow company at the time. Though "project manager" wasn’t my title, that’s essentially what I did while planning and executing shows around the country. With this experience in a leadership role, I knew the project management degree concentration would be perfect for me.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: I was surprised how much fun it could be! While I can’t say I thoroughly enjoyed every course, there were many I truly found joy participating in and I’ve already used the newly-gained knowledge and experience.

My entire perspective changed from enrollment to graduation. I loved the learning process, applying learned skills and meeting incredible professors along the way. I’m even considering getting my master’s degree, which is not something I’d have considered before.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: I’m thankful to have had a few professors who taught me many great lessons. One in particular really brought home my positive experience at ASU.

Professor Denise Bates went out of her way to send me the most thoughtful email last week. She simply shared how much she was enjoying having me as a student and she appreciates that I’m “insightful and communicate my thoughts well.” I responded to let her know how much her message truly touched me and that I appreciated her incredibly kind and spontaneous note. 

It’s professors like her – who are genuinely invested in their students and take time out of their busy schedules to celebrate good happenings – that remind me to do the same thing for my fellow peers, family, friends and community. Kindness really does go so far!

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Lean into it and keep going! Don’t sell yourself short on what you’re fully capable of. And in whatever phase of life you find yourself pursuing your degree, be proud of the accomplishment. It’s huge!

Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying?

A: Between the pandemic and being a wife and mother, my schedule didn’t allow for much studying out of the house. But I found my groove every night after the house was quiet and I was up against deadlines. I work well under pressure and I loved to grind when it was down to crunch time.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: Enjoy, celebrate and be proud. I owe my husband and children a lot of missed time as they sacrificed not having me fully present in my effort to finish my degree. I want to show them my appreciation and have a summer filled with endless memories.

I’m excited to see where my professional journey leads from here. I hope to move up the corporate ladder within my current company and I may go back for my master’s degree sooner than later.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women worldwide. According to the CDC, one American dies every 36 seconds from cardiovascular disease. And about 659,000 people in the country die from heart disease each year – that’s one in every four deaths.

My grandfather passed away from a sudden heart attack when I was just 13 years old, leaving my mom devastated. Six years ago, our oldest daughter was born with a congenital heart defect.

I currently work for the American Heart Association. I joined this organization and made it my mission to ensure no other family member has to experience the preventable loss of a relative, or have to visit their child in the hospital for months on end, due to this terrible disease. I would be ever so thankful to use $40 million toward furthering our impact to the community. There’s so much more work to be done, awareness to spread and dollars to be raised to ensure we live in a world of longer, healthier lives. 

By Chad Hays, senior marketing content specialist, EdPlus at Arizona State University.

ASU grad student wins Innovation Award for sustainable semiconductor coating process

School of Molecular Sciences PhD student Thu Thao Nguyen's method garners interest from government agencies, manufacturing corporations

May 4, 2022

Thu Thao Nguyen, an Arizona State University PhD student working with School of Molecular Sciences Associate Professor Ryan Trovitch, has developed a catalyst that provides a sustainable and efficient method to produce semiconductor coatings. 

Because semiconductors are used in a wide range of electronics, her manganese-based catalyst has not only earned her the Innovation Award from the School of Molecular Sciences, but it has also garnered interest from government agencies and manufacturing corporations. Thu Thao Nguyen, recipient of the 2022 Innovation Award from ASU's School of Molecular Sciences, smiling and holding two plaques on palm walk on the Tempe campus. Thu Thao Nguyen, recipient of the 2022 School of Molecular Sciences Innovation Award. Download Full Image

“Few chemists are able to redefine the applications of a reaction while immediately gaining the attention of government agencies and corporate partners,” Trovitch said. “Thao has been able to do just that. Her development of an earth-abundant metal catalyst for the synthesis of chemical vapor deposition precursors represents a significant improvement over current methods that rely on corrosive chlorosilanes and offers the world a sustainable route to semiconductor coatings, which can positively impact microelectronics and solar panel manufacturing.”

The award, which is supported through the ASU Foundation, is given annually to a graduate student for excellence in achieving the School of Molecular Sciences' mission of discovering molecular-level solutions to real-world challenges through the pursuit of methodology or development of research ideas or inventions.

“(The school) continues to be extremely grateful to Emeritus Professor William Glaunsinger and Lorna Glaunsinger for their continued support of this award, which provides our students with a unique opportunity and represents a concrete demonstration of support of the principle 'advancing research and discovery of public value' as given in the ASU Charter,” said Tijana Rajh, director of the School of Molecular Sciences.

Nguyen, in her fourth year of her PhD program, is grateful for receiving the Innovation Award, as well as the opportunities she has at ASU.

Born and raised in Hanoi, Vietnam, by her mother, Nguyen credits her mom for nurturing her curiosity and tenacity.

“My dad passed away when I was only 1 year old,” Nguyen said, “so my mother had to work really hard to make a living. We were very poor, but she never refused whenever I said that I wanted to learn something. She always encourages me to try my best and do what I want. Seeing how hard she works and all the difficulties she has been through motivates me to tackle any challenge and not to give up.

“Receiving the 2022 SMS Innovation Award lightens part of my financial burden and motivates me to focus more on research and the pursuit of my career as a chemist."

Nguyen earned her bachelor's degree in chemistry from the Hanoi University of Education, then worked as a high school teacher prior to starting her graduate degree at ASU in 2018.

“I like the fact that ASU supports and encourages graduate students to do science independently and utilize the facilities needed for our research,” Nguyen said. “The staff are super kind and are always willing to help us.”

Nguyen and Trovitch are currently working with ASU Skysong Innovations on the commercialization of her catalyst, which has been recently patented, and further study funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

“Thao has already synthesized several grams of her catalyst for industrial screening,” Trovitch said, “and her efforts are directly responsible for a National Science Foundation award that our group recently received. I was thrilled to hear that Thao was named the recipient of this year’s School of Molecular Sciences Innovation Award. She absolutely deserves it!”

“I think innovation is critical, especially in this time when we are facing many challenges in a wide range of fields, from new diseases to the hurdles of sustainable energy and environmental problems," Nguyen said. "Doing research is difficult; receiving this award encourages me to pursue my career as a scientist and find sustainable solutions that benefit the world.”

James Klemaszewski

Science writer, School of Molecular Sciences