Battling lupus, grandma of seven earns her bachelor’s degree in social work

Rising Up at KUEC: In this Q & A series, outstanding 2019 KUEC graduates share how KU Edwards Campus has helped them start, advance or change their career. Meet Karen Holliday.

Karen Holliday

Rising up to life’s challenges is an everyday occurrence for 56-year-old Karen Holliday of Kansas City, Kansas. Holliday has lupus, the autoimmune disease where your body's immune system attacks your own tissues and organs. Still, this wife of 39 years, mother of two grown children and grandmother of seven pursued her dream of positively impacting others by recently earning her bachelor’s degree in social work at KUEC.  

“Karen has made it through as an adult student while supporting her family and, at times, raising her grandchildren,” said Jody Johnson, Holliday’s KUEC Academic Success Coach who nominated her as an outstanding 2019 graduate. "She’s done some interesting work in her practicum and has engaged strongly in community development.”

Holliday will begin her new job as a recovery coach with Truman Medical Center in June. Find out more about this 2019 outstanding graduate who is ready to give back.


Q: What is a typical day in your life like?

A: During five months of my senior year, I had four of my grandchildren ages 5, 3, 2 and 7 months. That day consisted of getting children up, dressed and fed, clean up after kids, dropped at daycare, on to practicum agency, homework, class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Other days, I picked up kids, dinner, story time and baths.

Q: What makes you the happiest?

A: Knowing that I have touched someone’s life in a positive way (and spending time with the love of my life).

Q: What motivates you?

A: Knowing that everything that I do, every goal that I accomplish is another sign of defeating all the symptoms of lupus. I am motivated to go and do in spite of having a chronic illness. I am motivated to show others that with God, nothing is impossible.

Q: Why did you choose KUEC?

A: Initially, I chose KUEC because it was part of the 2 + 2 program at KCKCC. I stayed with KUEC after the program changed because I liked the small intimate classes at KUEC.

Q: How did KUEC meet your personal and/or academic needs?

A: Personal needs – I took all of the courses necessary to enroll, it was somewhat close to home and the courses were challenging and engaging for my field of study.

Q: How has your KUEC degree prepared you for the future?

A: It has allowed me to obtain the job I believe I truly desire in my field and it has also shown me what I still need to acquire in order to pursue the lifelong career I desire, which is a counselor.

Q: What was the most difficult part of earning your college degree and how did you overcome it?

A: The most difficult part of earning my degree was coping with a chronic illness and temporarily caring for my grandbabies. Neither situation was something I could overcome. I had to adjust my schedule, I sought resources through the school and others, and juggled schedules with my husband to do the best that we could. Through the hospitalizations, I kept working so that I would not fall behind.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

A: Class speaker for KUEC. I absolutely love the experience and my classmates.

Q: What is your favorite memory of your time at KUEC?

A: Our assignment in Professional Issues. We completed an assignment entitled “This I Believe.” Each student shared a personal part of their life and I feel it made our class closer and stronger as a unit, more like a family.

Learn more about the Bachelor of Social Work degree at KU Edwards Campus.

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