Sun Devil perseveres and earns her degree at 49 with a 4.0 GPA

December 4, 2020

Priscilla Searcy’s journey to graduation wasn’t exactly easy, but sometimes the hardest situations can create the most fulfilling outcomes. 

Despite becoming sick toward the end of the semester, Searcy graduated from the College of Liberal Arts with a 4.0 GPA, a place on the Dean’s List and a degree in science psychology. Although it was hard at times, Searcy persevered, and she’s so excited to focus on advocacy and a life based on respect and cultivating social awareness in her next chapter. 

During her time at ASU, Searcy, who is visually impaired, worked for Student Accessibility and Inclusive Learning Services and TRIO and was involved with Ability Counts and Active Minds student organizations. She said some of her favorite memories at ASU occurred in these places with the amazing people she met there. 

Priscilla Searcy in front of bookshelves

ASU grad Priscilla Searcy

Searcy said she wasn’t a traditional student. It took her 20 years to get her associate degree.

“You become an adult and life starts to happen,” Searcy said.  

At 49 years old at graduation, Searcy said she’s not even close to being done chasing her goals and is looking forward to her future career as a gerontologist (gerentology is the study of aging). 

For Searcy, her grandmother was her biggest motivator to pursue her passion and make opportunities happen for herself. Searcy’s grandmother was diagnosed with dementia, and she used her knowledge of psychology to connect with her grandmother more and understand her condition better. Searcy’s grandmother passed away before she earned her degree; Searcy dedicated her academic accomplishments to her grandmother. 

As Searcy’s time at ASU came to an end, she shared what the future looks like for her and what advice she’d give to current students. 

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

Answer: I knew I wanted to pursue psychology for a very long time. In 2015 I was 44 years old and chose gerontology. My grandmother’s condition was what initially pushed me to pursue my passion and work toward creating a better future. 

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

A: Aside from the psychology classes I took at ASU, the courses that really helped me become more socially aware were the sustainability classes. I took a class on food culture and originally thought it was going to be an easy A, but it really forced me to think about my own habits of waste. I also loved taking classes with Dr. Frank Infurna, Dr. Virginia Kwan and Dr. Majia Nadesan. This is my psych trinity. I loved the student activities that were held for us. I especially liked the cultural activities!

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: My big brother influenced my choice to come to ASU, but being able to take a class by Dr. Frank Infurna was a big factor in coming to ASU as well. 

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

A: Make sure you’re doing something you enjoy, something you feel passionate about. Make sure you’re doing something you feel like you can do every day, something that won’t compromise yourself. 

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: I spent a lot of time in the TRIO office, and I loved being around the TRIO people. I also loved being at the MU. There are so many people around you and they’re all doing their own thing, but we’re all there for the same reason. 

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

A: I would definitely put the majority of the money to education on mental health. There are so many categories of mental illness that go unnoticed.