Psychology graduate’s health classes helped her with personal medical challengeGAINESVILLE, Fla. – Nayibis Pacheco remembers sitting in the front row of graduates at commencement, dressed in her cap and gown. It felt surreal to look around and to see herself surrounded by a sea of faces waiting for the graduates’ names to be called, and to know that even more were watching via livestream. As Pacheco waited for the ceremony to start, the girl next to her leaned over and whispered, “I can’t believe I’m going to graduate from UF.” Pacheco thought to herself, “Me neither.”
The 29-year-old psychology major first heard about UF Online from her mother-in-law, who worked with Canvas, a learning management system that UF uses to communicate with its students. Pacheco had gotten her associate’s degree from Florida Southwestern State College at the time, but with encouragement from her mother-in-law, decided to go back to school to get her bachelor’s.
“I was a little hesitant at first because online had so many more components to it and required more discipline,” Pacheco said. “I knew I’d have to work harder, but I think the quality of classes at UF are so much better. They’re always up-to-date and current and they always have a way to apply to your life.”
In fact, Pacheco was able to directly apply what she learned in her classes when she was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes during her first semester in UF Online.
“It was a tough situation,” said the Naples resident. “I was feeling sick for a long time, and it interfered with my studies.”
She credits health courses in UF Online with giving her the appropriate information to make healthier choices and change her diet and lifestyle. She began to work out more often and continued to adhere to the things she learned in class, so much so that she was able to reverse her diagnosis. Her professors also accommodated her needs and gave her extra time after the semester to catch up on any work that she was behind in.
As an online student, Pacheco learned to better organize her schedule because she also had to allocate time to being a mother and an addiction specialist at a substance abuse rehabilitation facility. She particularly enjoyed that her job fit in so well with what she was studying in regards to mental health issues and psychology.
To manage everything, she color coded and synced all her calendars, including her Google one with Canvas, blocked off specific time frames to do homework, and made sure to spend time with her 9-year-old daughter. Although it was a lot, Pacheco enjoyed everything she was involved in.
“There was flexibility within structure, and that’s what makes it so appealing and so helpful,” Pacheco said. “I’d work out at the gym and listen to lectures on my Canvas app. I learned to be a diligent, determined, committed person to do a lot of the work that goes into learning.”
With everything going on, Pacheco felt discouraged at times. When she felt like quitting though, she reminded herself that she was surrounded by family members who encouraged her and found value in her education. Her husband worked more hours so that she could study more, and she wanted to set a good example for her daughter, Lily, as well.
“I taught my own daughter that I have homework, too, and I take my time to do it well,” Pacheco said. “Learning is a big part of my life, too, and everything I learned, I applied to my life, and she was there soaking it all up.”
As the first person in her family to get a bachelor’s degree, Pacheco acknowledged how much it meant for her to set an example in her education.
“I did it,” she said. “My daughter can do it. Anyone in my family can do it.”
Pacheco plans to get her master’s in social work and licensed clinical and social work certifications. She said she would love to continue studying at UF.
“I’m so proud to be a Gator,” Pacheco said. “It means community, pride, resourcefulness, and I’m proud to be within the network of people who have so many of the values that I hold dear.”
Story by Alexandria Ng. Photos submitted by Nayibis Pacheco.
Become an influential leader on the forefront of behavioral and developmental discoveries with a psychology degree from the University of Florida’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. This program, one of the most popular majors on the UF campus, prepares students for a wide range of related careers, as well as graduate study in psychology or advanced professional programs. The psychology department recruits diverse groups of students, faculty, and staff, and offers an interdisciplinary approach to all matters of the mind.
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