KOKOMO, Ind. — As a new student at Indiana University Kokomo, Joanna Davis found the perfect place to study in Hunt Hall.
The quiet lounge was her haven on campus, and became the place where she made the connections that helped her succeed in her radiography program.
“I met these amazing people who welcomed me to their group and helped me,” said Davis, 44. “It didn’t matter how much older I was than them. They had drive, they were determined to succeed, and it inspired me to do the same.”
Davis, a native of the Philippines, is among the last in that study group to graduate. She will complete her associate degree in radiography in May, then will begin the one-year program to finish her bachelor’s in medical imaging technology. She also will earn a Bachelor of General Studies degree.
She’s traveled a long road to earn her diploma. She moved to California at age 19, and met her husband, Jon Davis. They now live in Westfield.
“I always say he took the best of California home with him,” she said.
They started their family right away, and Joanna Davis put her college dreams on hold until her youngest child, Jalen, started first grade. She then enrolled for one class at Ivy Tech, to complete prerequisites for nursing.
“My goal the whole time was to go to IU Kokomo, to be a nurse,” she said. “I took one or two classes at a time, so I was home when my kids went to school, and I was home when they came home.”
Her son Jerrod is now in U.S. Army basic training. Daughter Jasmine graduated from high school early and is a student at IU Bloomington. Son Jalen is a high school freshman.
They know from her example that education is important.
“They’ve seen me struggle with classes, and they see me study all the time,” she said. “They say they are very proud of me.”
Davis began taking classes at IU Kokomo in 2010, but soon discovered nursing wasn’t what she really wanted to do. During a tutoring session with Marcia Gillette, adjunct faculty member in chemistry, Gillette suggested she consider the radiography program. After job shadowing a radiographer, she “Just fell in love with it.”
“It’s still patient care,” Davis said. “The difference is you are their caregiver for a short time. I get to see what’s going on inside them with the technology tools I have.”
Her study group made a huge difference in her college experience. English is her second language, though she began learning it very young. Sometimes that presents challenges when her classes and books are all in English.
“I have to translate in my head from English sometimes, to really understand,” she said. “Sometimes I have to work to form the questions I want to ask. Once I get the concept, it sticks. Everyone has been very patient and let me think things through and make sure I ask the question I want to ask.”
Faculty members also have made a difference for her, answering her questions and helping her. When she took chemistry, Gillette met her an hour before class to answer questions and explain concepts she didn’t understand.
“Even professors I’ve never been in classes with have helped me,” Davis said.
Once she completes her bachelor’s degree, she looks forward to working in her chosen field.
“I definitely want to apply it, so I don’t lose what I learned,” she said. “I also am still considering going back to nursing, so I can be both a nurse and an ultrasound tech, but I also don’t want to be in school forever.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.