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Two-Time Stroke Survivor Surprised with Diploma Delivery

Carol D'Anna in her cap and gown holding her diploma, standing in the center of Walmart produce section with a blue banner on the left with the text Carol D'Anna '22 BS in Business Administration with a faded 2022 in the background.

It hasn’t been easy for Carol D'Anna but she knew the only person who would be able to make a genuine difference in her life was herself. So, when she had an opportunity to attend Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), she knew she needed to go for it.

Carol D'Anna hugging Lisa Marsh Reyerson after being awarded her diploma

D'Anna recently completed her bachelor's degree in business administration, earning the highest honors. While she looked forward to celebrating this stellar achievement, D'Anna has health concerns that take priority. Attending an SNHU commencement ceremony in person isn't in the cards for her presently. Still, her academic advisor Michele Albion couldn't let D'Anna's success go unnoticed. 

So, on Friday, July 29, D'Anna was surprised by a visit to her workplace, where she was awarded her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration by Executive Vice President and SNHU Interim University Provost Lisa Marsh Reyerson. Albion was also there to cheer D'Anna on and celebrate this special moment.

"I am so proud of Carol that I can barely find the words to express it," said Albion. "She is such a unique and inspirational individual that I'm grateful we've been able to honor her achievement in such a personal way."

'Live Better U' Program Fuels Student Goals

Carol D'Anna throwing her cap in the air in front of Walmart

In 2019, Walmart expanded its Live Better U program, which is designed to eliminate barriers to college enrollment and graduation for its associates, to help create a path for everyone. This expansion created an opportunity for Walmart's U.S. associates to earn an associate or bachelor's degree in business, information technology or other STEM undergraduate degrees from SNHU through the university's partnership with Guild Education.   

D'Anna is a Walmart associate and has worked there throughout her degree program, which began in 2018. When her advisor, Albion, told her of this new opportunity, D'Anna wasted no time in applying for the program. It was a decision that changed her life.

"I think every single person that works for Walmart can have this experience," said D'Anna. "They can get their diploma, and they can make a better life for themselves. They just have to put in the effort."

D'Anna attributes her coworkers'—her Walmart work family—support to being a significant factor in completing her degree. 

Carol D'Anna and Michele Albion holding Carol's diploma in front of Walmart

Whenever she had days when she felt too tired to write a paper or thought, "I can't do this anymore," her coworkers always told her she had this and that she couldn't give up.

"Knowing they were behind me made a huge difference," she said.

Having her diploma delivered at her place of work was particularly apt for D'Anna, as she plans to continue working with these people who mean so much to her at Walmart. With her newly earned degree, she hopes to grow within the company.

"I couldn't have imagined a better graduation," D'Anna said. "I absolutely couldn't because they are my family."

Determined to Succeed Despite Health Scares

The support D'Anna received from her coworkers and academic advisor extended beyond her coursework. She also had their full support while dealing with some major health scares.

Throughout the pandemic, D'Anna continued her work at Walmart as an essential worker. During that time, she experienced two strokes that left her unable to walk and speak.

D'Anna credits Albion and her coworkers for helping her back on her feet. She said Albion was more than just an advisor but also a friend, which made a significant impact.

"She talked about my health and if there was anything she could do," D'Anna said. "It mattered… it made a difference. It made me feel connected to the school and her."

Despite her health challenges, she never gave up on her dream of getting her degree.

Carol D'Anna surrounded by her support system after receiving her diploma

As D'Anna began speech therapy, she was told she may never fully recover, but she said, "That's garbage." She knew she was determined and stubborn enough to succeed and get better, and that's precisely what she did.

D'Anna not only finished her degree, but she finished with a 4.0 GPA. Today, she has made a full recovery and has her bachelor's degree in hand. "I am proud of her accomplishment, but also proud that Carol represents the best and brightest of SNHU," Albion said.

D'Anna loves learning and has no plans to finish her education any time soon. She wants to earn her master's degree. Going to college has been a dream of D’Anna’s and having completed her degree and being able to celebrate her accomplishment with her support team has meant the world to her.

"Walking through the door and seeing everybody there and getting my diploma, it's just amazing," she said. "I did it."


A degree can change your life. Find the SNHU online program that can best help you meet your goals.

Alexa Gustavsen '21 is a writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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About Southern New Hampshire University

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SNHU is a nonprofit, accredited university with a mission to make high-quality education more accessible and affordable for everyone.

Founded in 1932, and online since 1995, we’ve helped countless students reach their goals with flexible, career-focused programs. Our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH is home to over 3,000 students, and we serve over 135,000 students online. Visit our about SNHU page to learn more about our mission, accreditations, leadership team, national recognitions and awards.