Graduate finds balance between motherhood and education

Portrait of ASU grad Sara Vidal with her young child and partner.

Sara Vidal and her family. Photo courtesy Sarah Vidal

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

Sara Vidal is a new graduate, and a new mother, and it is through the partnership between Uber and Arizona State University that she was able to accomplish both of her big dreams.

This December, Vidal will graduate with a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies, with concentrations in organizational leadership and Spanish, from the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts through ASU Online

Vidal, a former airline employee, had been furloughed from her job during the pandemic and had struggled to find employment. Delivering with Uber Eats was meant to be a short-term solution while looking for something more permanent, but Vidal quickly realized Uber offered perks that simply couldn’t be found elsewhere.

Uber’s partnership with Arizona State University provides qualifying drivers, or an eligible family member, with 100% tuition coverage at ASU toward more than 100 undergraduate degree programs offered online. It would allow Vidal to graduate from ASU without a heavy financial burden.

“Uber offered the reward program at ASU and I was trying to have a baby and going through in vitro fertilization,” she said. “Uber Eats and the online program provided the flexibility I needed. That was my main motivation to go back to school and reskill.”

The Gilbert, Arizona, native thrived during her time at ASU Online, joining the Organizational Leadership honor society Omicron Delta Kappa, and serving as the secretary of the interdisciplinary studies honor society Alpha Iota Sigma. 

Vidal also spoke about her experience with the program during the annual Education Summit presented by Salesforce. 

When asked about the most meaningful courses from her academic journey, Vidal is quick to mention IDS 312 Topic: Death and Dying: An Interdisciplinary Approach taught by Dr. Judy Grace

“She showcased how we deal with death throughout time and cultures,” Vidal said. “It made me grateful for life and opened my perspective on dying.”

The parallels between academics and life can be poetic; Vidal and her husband welcomed new life into the world this past spring with the birth of their son. 

Becoming a mother and earning her degree has taught Vidal that anything is possible. We spoke with the new graduate about her academic journey and the advice she would share with anyone looking to fulfill their own dreams with Uber and ASU Online.

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

A: I went back and forth between Spanish and organizational leadership. I wanted to learn more Spanish and understand my husband’s culture better. It is important to me that my son is taught to be proud of being both American and Dominican. I also always wanted to go into training. I like seeing others succeed, and training in a new hire class would be so rewarding. When I found out I could do both and learn how to integrate them, it all clicked for me.

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

A: It surprised me when I learned just how much the United States is way behind many other countries in maternity care. We have zero paid maternity leave federal mandate. We only allow 12 weeks of FMLA, and many women do not have the resources to take that time, as they need the income to survive. It has devastating physical and mental health effects on mothers and babies, yet nothing has been done about it.

Q: Why did you choose ASU Online?

A: Mainly due to the partnership between Uber and ASU, but also because I needed that flexibility. Many family members and friends went to ASU and highly recommended applying. I was excited to join ASU and call myself a Sun Devil.

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

A: There were so many professors that were impactful for me. Professor Brian McCormack taught me I could do an extensive research paper and even encouraged me to publish in our honor society’s (Alpha Iota Sigma) annual publication, Interdisciplinary Studies Works. Something I never thought I would do having dyslexia. It taught me I could do incredible things if I take it one step at a time and focus. Professor Judy Grace took the time to email about a project I was involved in just to congratulate me. She wasn’t even sure if it was actually me she needed to be congratulating. It taught me how such a simple gesture can be immensely impactful. All of my Spanish teachers had Zoom meetings with me and made sure I succeeded and felt included. There are so many more and I feel horrible not being able to mention every professor.

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

A: It’s OK to cry. I mean it, just have a good cry and keep on going. If you are feeling overwhelmed or confused, just ask your professor. Every professor I had was willing to meet with me outside of class and give clarification.

Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying?

A: My reclining chair in the living room. I would listen to the study playlist on Spotify or play the television in the background.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I’m going to Disneyland! After that, it’s all up in the air. I want to get a master's in organizational leadership and become a corporate trainer.

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

A: I am tackling getting everyone access to clean water. I heard in one of my classes that water is life. Even here in the States, families are still suffering from polluted houses and drinking water. For example, in Flint, Michigan, where they are still dealing with hazardous water that was contaminated in 2014. Everyone deserves to drink clean water and bathe in clean water.

Written by Margot LaNoue for ASU Online.

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