When college becomes a family affair

The average college student shudders at the thought of mom and dad attending classes with him or her. But the Baughn family opted to make attending Northeast State an adventure.

Dave Baughn, his wife, Lisa, and their daughter Emily will all walk the stage at Northeast State’s graduation commencement ceremony on May 12.

“We are so excited to get to graduate together,” said Lisa Baughn. “We have been blessed by Northeast State for so many people to come into our lives.”

A computer network engineer by profession, Dave returned to college to fulfill a promise to his employer and earn his associate degree in Network Engineering. Lisa and Emily are both Pre-Nursing majors planning to articulate to a nearby four-year college to complete their bachelor’s degree.

Relocating to East Tennessee from California in 2006, the family experienced some mild culture shock. As homeschooled student, however, Emily didn’t face major changes of new classmates or subjects. She credits her parents with instilling an attitude of determination in her from a young age.

“It is so important to start and finish what you do and don’t give up when it gets hard,” said Emily. “Everyone should be encouraged not to settle for second best.”

Dave, Emily, and Lisa Baughn
Dave, Emily, and Lisa Baughn

Dave enrolled first at Northeast State while he was working full-time at Wellmont Health Systems. He accepted a promotion contingent on his earning a degree. His perseverance – and the family’s – was tested with his 40+ hours work weeks while carrying a full-time load of no less than 12 credit hours per semester.

“A degree is something no one can take away from you,” said Dave Baughn. “That is what we told Emily and what I would press upon every person thinking about enrolling at Northeast State.”

Lisa and her daughter enrolled the same semester and wound up seeking out the same major of Pre-Nursing. A professional writer and speaker, Lisa acknowledged a bit of apprehension entering college and pursuing the sciences.

“I spent 12 years as a home-school mom so all this was new to me,” she said. “I’m a liberal arts girl.”

A series of events pushed Lisa toward the nursing profession. Perhaps the most profound being her daughter’s own critical health diagnosis three years ago. Emily suffered a traumatic brain injury and subsequent brain tumor. The injury damaged her vision permanently and forced her relearn basic motor skills and even how to read and write. While treatments were successful without surgical intervention, Emily said most health care professionals told her to accept living a diminished life.

“I was told I’d never go to college, but I told them I was going,” said Emily. “We give up on people too easily for a variety of reasons.”

Mom and daughter jumped into the challenging classes of Anatomy and Physiology I and II classes as well as Chemistry classes. Both mom and daughter praised Northeast State faculty members Dr. Brent Lockhart and Dr. Ed Osborne as top instructors and influences.

“We decided to take the hard stuff,” said Lisa. “It is not one person. It is a team of us doing it.”

Despite getting accustomed to new professors for every class, Emily said she transitioned well from the home school environment into college. She also visited the College’s Center for Students with Disabilities to take advantage of available learning services.

Emily has bounced back marvelously well as a cum laude graduate with a 3.5 grade point average while carrying 22 credit hours this spring. She added her decision to enter the nursing profession came from her own experiences in the health care.

“I want to be the person to be there for someone who is fearful or coming out of something in pain,” said Emily. “I want them to know I’m there to care for them and they have an advocate.”

Team Baugh successfully earned their associate degrees together. The same way they tackle life in general with each other and their beloved dogs Hunter and Savannah.

“God has provided for us every step of the way,” said Lisa Baughn. “It has been a wonderful experience and a blessing to be at Northeast State.”

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