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'Out of work' mom named Outstanding Graduate

May 06, 2011

Osmara Altenhof said her degree from ASU has kick-started a stalled career, restored her self-confidence, and helped her become a better parent.

Altenhof, who is the School of Letters and Sciences Outstanding Graduate for 2011, received her Bachelor of Science degree in Technical Communication last December. She will be in attendance at the school’s May 14 commencement and be recognized for her outstanding effort and 4.0 GPA.

“I will never forget the day I received my degree. There was the sense of pride, the lump in my throat, and the racing heartbeat that accompanied the plain joy of opening the envelope,” said the 48-year-old Alachua, Fla., resident. “There are two things I remember most of that moment. The first was the unshed tears in my husband’s eyes as he hugged me and the second was the pride I saw in my son’s face as he touched the raised letters that said ‘Arizona State University.’ I would not have been able to complete my degree without the support of my family.”

Phil Regier, Executive Vice Provost and Dean of ASU Online, said that the university is moved by Altenhof’s story.

“The university community is so proud of Osmara. She is more than an extraordinary student, she’s an exemplary human being,” Regier said. “Osmara confronted her own adversity by earning a degree online from ASU, and she excelled in the process. We can all learn from her uplifting story.”

Shelley Rodrigo, a Technical Communication faculty associate in the School of Letters and Sciences, said Altenhof was clearly inspired to get her degree.

“Good students are going to pass no matter what the instructor does; Osmara is a good student. Great students are going to take advantage of the class and learn from it; Osmara is a great student,” Rodrigo said. “Outstanding students are going to share what and how they are learning so that the instructor improves; Osmara is an outstanding student. Osmara's work always understood the heart of the assignment and then proceeded to make the project her own.”

Altenhof said she was at a crossroads in her life and career when she enrolled at ASU after a 20-year hiatus from college.

“I had been laid off from my job in 2008 and despite extensive experience in my field, I just couldn’t find any work,” Altenhof said. “I selected ASU because their online program best fit my needs. Additionally, there’s a certain prestige that goes with the ASU name. It’s a well-recognized university.”

With the blessing of her husband and four children, Altenhof rolled up her sleeves in January 2010 and completed 33 credit hours in just under a year.

“Going back to school put a lot of things into perspective. It required a lot of sacrifice and discipline not only on my end but my family as well,” Altenhof said. “Everyone is proud of me and understands the hard work that was involved. I think I was able to set an example for my children, and show them that you get out of this life what you put into it.”

That proverb just came true for Altenhof last month when she secured a job with the University of Florida as a Training Specialist in the Academic Technology department. She credits her new degree for her successful re-entry into the work force.

“My degree is much more than a piece of paper. It has instilled in me the pride and confidence that was missing a few years ago when I was out of a job and devastated,” Altenhof said. “It shows that you’re never too old to start over and that not only can I do this, but I can do it well.”

Marshall Terrill
Information Specialist
ASU Office of Public Affairs