‘I knew that there was a bigger purpose for me’: Online grad reflects on journey as new mom, first-gen student

Portrait of ASU grad Maura King

In December, Maura King received a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in sociology from Arizona State University’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.


For Maura King, a first-generation student who graduated from Arizona State University’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences last month, the path to graduation was not linear. During her time as an undergraduate student, King faced a number of significant challenges.

“School was definitely hard at first because I had no idea where to start because no one in my family had gone to college. I was working full time and going to school full time,” King said. “I was in a very bad car accident in August of 2019, in the midst of being in college. I had a subdural hematoma, which is a brain bleed, and I lost everything for myself.”

As King recovered from her accident, she took time off from school and moved from Arizona to Washington. Then, in February of 2021, King became a mother.

“My daughter is the biggest blessing in my life and she's the one who encourages me to keep going to school. I think that is one of the biggest purposes that I have here — to encourage her to go to college one day. … At one point, I wanted to give up but I knew that there was a bigger purpose for me. I don't think I could have done it without my professors at ASU. They were just very encouraging and really kept me on my toes.”

King completed her program in psychlogy fully online, which she said allowed her the flexibility she needed for her lifestyle. During her time at ASU, King had the opportunity to work as a virtual teaching assistant for Sociology 101.

“That definitely helped show me what I was capable of,” she said. “I was able to take all of these courses, be a mom, a teaching assistant and work at the same time. It was beautiful to see that I was capable of doing that. Providing students with the support that they needed really felt good.”

In December, King received a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in sociology. Here, she shares more about her experiences at ASU and what’s next for her.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study psychology?

Answer: I used to be a paraprofessional at an elementary school and I really loved working with special needs children. I had a huge connection with them and I actually ended up working at a home with a brother and a sister who both had autism, providing in-home care and teaching them basic life skills. That really drew me to the human brain and social interaction and human interaction. It really was just that that made me realize I could learn about this for the rest of my life because it's so interesting to me and I feel like there is a really big need in this field. I was also interested in the forensic side of psychology — learning about criminal minds and why criminals do the things that they do and analyzing their behaviors and their past.

Q: What is something you learned while at New College in the classroom or otherwise that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: I was very surprised to learn how many people go to online school and how much support that we have online. I would get newsletters all the time and emails from different advisors to get involved or offer help and resources. That was very surprising to me because I think many students feel very discouraged when they decide to get an online degree and they assume they won’t get the support they need because they’re not in person. I was very thankful because the advisors I had were very encouraging and supportive. 

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

A: Professor Shannon Tromp. I was going through a lot when I was having my daughter. It was very stressful — I was running on no sleep, trying to do homework and trying to take care of a newborn. It was very overwhelming and I felt discouraged but she gave me the best advice and really just encouraged me and made me realize that it's OK if I'm tired, it's OK if I procrastinate a little bit. As long as I get my stuff done and do what I need to do, I'm going to be OK — I'm still a great student and a great mom. Her encouragement definitely had a really positive impact on my educational journey.

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

A: Keep moving. Every single day is a new day. … Enjoy the journey and then, when you get to the end of it, there will be a big reward. Don’t give up and just keep trying every single day. Do your best every single day and continue to show up.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I'm currently looking at graduate programs and my goal is to become a forensic psychologist and open up my own business either in Washington or in Arizona. My biggest purpose is to help criminals through counseling as well as to advocate for immigrants. It’s important to me to advocate for immigrants and provide them with the support that they need as well.

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