Online students find friendship, support during academic journey together

After first meeting online through community college in San Diego, 2 grads supported each other through master's degree program at ASU


Two women posing in front of ASU backdrop

Monique Leyva (left) and Whitnee Abriel supported each other through graduate school at ASU’s Hugh Downs School of Human Communication. Courtesy photo

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When Monique Leyva and Whitnee Abriel graduated from ASU’s Hugh Downs School of Human Communication this May, they joined an ASU Online alumni community that is slated to hit 100,000 graduates this summer.

And among that cohort, they ended up finding friendship and support along the way.

The two first met in an online class at Southwestern Community College in San Diego, where they formed a bond that carried them through their undergraduate studies, culminating in their enrollment at Arizona State University in the Hugh Downs School’s online master’s degree program.

Leyva recalls their first encounter vividly. 

"Whitnee and I first met at Southwestern Community College in San Diego, right in the middle of the pandemic,” she said. “Zoom was our unlikely classroom for our Mass Communication and Society class.”

They reconnected when their paths crossed again at San Diego State University.

"I noticed we were in the same class and immediately reached out,” Leyva said. “The rest was history!"

After they finished their undergraduate studies, their decision to enroll in graduate school at ASU was fueled by ambition and mutual encouragement.  

"We pushed each other to pursue a master's degree," Abriel said.  

"We encouraged each other to reach our full potential," Leyva added.

Both said that balancing family commitments with academic responsibilities presented challenges, but the two found ways to support each other.  

Abriel learned how to effectively manage her time from Leyva, whom she often consulted for advice.

"Monique taught me not to stress too much about assignments. I learned to prioritize my family and schedule set times for coursework," Abriel said.

"Whitnee’s support was indispensable,” Leyva said. “We leaned on each other for encouragement."

Beyond academic achievements, their journey also taught them valuable life lessons.  

Leyva said she learned the importance of self-awareness and companionship: "Sharing and celebrating the little successes is just as important as the big ones."  

Abriel emphasized the need for persistence: "It is important to ask questions until you get the answers you need."

Their academic success underscores the importance of making connections while pursuing an education — something that extended to the faculty of the Hugh Downs School as well.

"The courses were engaging, and the professors were supportive and encouraging," Abriel said.

"The Hugh Downs School has been an invaluable source of support on my academic journey," Leyva said.

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