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Parkerson, Staffney named 2019-20 Nugent Scholarship recipients

At Lipscomb University, we believe in the transformative power of education and in providing pathways for students to achieve their educational goals.

Kim Chaudoin  | 

Crisman in the fall

Lipscomb Online offers students a convenient way to earn a college degree.

Every student’s journey to a college degree has its own unique pathway filled with challenges and accomplishments along the way. Lipscomb Online offers students opportunities to complete a college degree that they may have started years before through a variety of innovative programs. 

Lipscomb Online also offers several scholarship opportunities for its students and recently announced the 2019-20 recipients of the Michael Nugent Scholarship. Jasmine Parkerson and Keith Staffney are this year’s Nugent Scholars. 

The university established the scholarship in memory of Michael Andrew Nugent, who was enrolled in the College of Professional Studies at the time of his death in January 2018 at age 28. The scholarship was funded to support students in the College of Professional Studies, which houses Lipscomb Online.

Parkerson and Staffney were selected from a large number of applicants for the Nugent Scholarship based on their academic record and an essay among other factors. Both have overcome life-changing obstacles and challenges in their pursuit of a college degree. They both turned to Lipscomb’s College of Professional Studies to help turn their educational dreams into a reality. 

Head Shot of Jasmine Parkerson

Jasmine Parkerson

Jasmine Parkerson

Parkerson is pursuing a Bachelor of Professional Studies degree in psychology leadership and is on target to graduate in August 2020. 

“I am truly honored to have received this scholarship,” she said. “The feeling behind this award is humility and gratitude. Being acknowledged for my strengths and overcomings has inspired me to continue to move forward. I hope that my story of triumph will continue to inspire others.”

In 2005, over the course of three days Parkerson suddenly became paralyzed from the top of her shoulders to her feet and a portion of her face. After days of medical tests and excruciating pain, Parkerson was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a rare disorder in which the body's immune system attacks its nerve system. The diagnosis left the then-26-year-old single mother of two young children, ages 2 and 4 at the time, “heartbroken.” She was told by doctors that it would likely take a year for her body to “rebuild” itself. 

“The numbness overcame my body but thankfully, shy of spreading to my lungs. There is not an actual cure. The treatment was rest and experimental testing,” recalls Parkerson. “They needed me and I could not provide for them, I could not even hug them. This was the most devastating part of this entire experience. The conditions of my life became a domino effect. Because of my illness, I could no longer work. So naturally, I lost my job. And we all know that work pays the bills. The next block to fall was when I had no choice but to let my apartment go. I was literally touching noses with adversity. What was I going to do in a situation that I had no control of?”  

As she was transported by ambulance to a skilled nursing facility Parkerson thought to herself that she was not “content” with the reality of this being her life.

“I acknowledged GBS being my current reality but I refused to accept being a victim of my circumstances,” she says. “The only way I could defy the odds of my condition was to maintain a positive mindset. Instead of questioning, I was grateful to be chosen for such an experience to learn, grow, and to ultimately teach. As my body slowly began to rebuild itself, I quickly began to push myself. That pushing created a leadway to a rehab hospital where I pushed myself even more.”

Over the next few months, Parkerson relearned how to walk as well as feed and dress herself. As she grew stronger over the years, Parkerson began to pursue a college degree at Lipscomb in 2009, but life circumstances prevented her from completing it. Then, she enrolled in Lipscomb’s FLEX Pace program. 

“The Flex Pace program is really saved me academically,” says Parkerson. “As life has shifted, I am not as available to attend on-campus courses. Regardless of how hectic my work and personal schedule may be, this program still allows flexibility for me to be successful in completing my degree.” 

“Life, my passions, and my purpose have motivated me to return to complete my degree. I have had ups and downs that caused me to take several breaks in my academic career,” she continues. “When you are not fulfilling your purpose, your passions and God-given gifts, you are not honoring our Creator or yourself. Even in the midst of chaos, I am still standing. You can’t get a greater motivation than that.”

Lipscomb Online offers a unique option for degree completion called FlexPACE (Personalized, Accessible, Coached, Experiential). The program gives students an opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree online in organizational leadership with the flexibility often needed by working adults. The program begins with a one-day behavioral assessment through which students may earn up to 30 credits toward a bachelor’s degree based on their experience and knowledge.

Students then sign up for a six-month subscription term during which they can take as many courses and earn credit hours as they want for a flat fee of $6,000. All courses are offered online, with students participating in a weekly call or meeting with a faculty coach to keep students on track to complete their degree and to develop the in-demand skills employers look for in employees.  

“I absolutely LOVE Lipscomb! I have received such wonderful care since I first began attending in 2009 — as mentioned, I have had unexpected breaks,” she admits. “The  entire faculty has been kind, knowledgeable and helpful.” 

Parkerson plans to incorporate her degree with her Empowerment Coaching business as a certified life coach and plans on pursuing a career in the education field as a school counselor or teacher. 

HEad shot of Keith Staffney

Keith Staffney

Keith Staffney

Becoming a business owner and an example for his newborn child are driving forces behind Staffney’s quest to earn an undergraduate business degree in accounting. 

“It is an honor for me to be receiving this scholarship. This honestly is the first time I have ever received a scholarship,” says Staffney. “This scholarship gives me hope that I conquer anything I put my mind to.”

“I just would like to thank everyone who was a part of making this scholarship possible and I hope my story gives someone hope to continue to push when life gives us those unfortunate events,” he continues. “Also, I would like to thank Michael Nugent and his family for allowing me to receive this scholarship in his honor.”

Like Parkerson, Staffney’s pathway to Lipscomb has included unexpected twists and turns along the way. As a child and through his teenage years, he watched his mother struggle to take care of him and his three brothers while his father sometimes landed in jail. Although not always an ideal childhood, Staffney says, “I know my mom did her best.” 
After high school, Staffney enrolled in the University of Mississippi. 

“I thought life was starting to turn upwards for me, but after two semesters I had to drop out because of some bad decisions I made,” he recalls. Staffney returned home to Jackson, Mississippi. While there, Staffney’s challenges continued. He found himself incarcerated for a brief period of time, his fiance ended their relationship, he experienced homelessness for nine months and his brother was murdered. His pursuit of a college education was far from his mind at the time. 

“Throughout my life, I have seen and overcome so many different things that I don’t know where to begin. But hard times and tragedy are just those things that come with life. They can’t be escaped or avoided, but they can be overcome. It is our choice to overcome all the different adversities in our lives,” Staffney says resolutely. “Due to past experiences I’ve learned doing just that makes us stronger.” 

Despite dealing with so much adversity, Staffney says he continued to “fight to have a better life for me.” He returned to college, found an apartment and a job.

“I continued to smile because I knew there was so much more for me in the future,” he recalls. 

Staffney worked his way up through the ranks at Taco Bell, making it to assistant manager and a salaried position. He quickly found himself working 60 hours, six days each week. As the weeks passed and a baby on the way, Staffney knew he needed a career change. 

“Taco Bell was a good job, and I learned so much because of the organization. The job helped mold my hard work ethic,” he says. “But that was not the type of life-style I wanted as I was looking forward to bringing my first child into the world!”

Staffney decided to return to college to complete his undergraduate degree at Lipscomb. 

“Just the thought of not finishing something I had started gave me the motivation to try again. I felt incomplete without having my degree,” he says. “Being at Lipscomb has been a great experience. The campus is nice looking and somewhat easy to navigate. Since attending classes, most of them have been online and very convenient for me because I work full-time. The classes also push me intellectually.”

Parkerson and Staffney have stories similar to Nugent, says Emily Smith, associate professor of professional studies and associate dean of academic excellence in Lipscomb Online.

"Michael Nugent was like many of our students — a young person in his twenties raising a child, working full time and trying to finish his degree so he could advance in his career,” says Smith. “The faculty and staff who interacted with him were impressed by his warm personality, work ethic, and his desire to help others. He loved Lipscomb and the relationships he built here, and he would have been so happy to know that this scholarship in his memory will help other students get the same kind of education he valued so much.”

In addition to memorializing Nugent, establishing the scholarship is intended to encourage students who reflect his determination to complete his education and his spirit of service to others, Smith said. Preference in awarding the scholarship is given to students who exemplify his characteristics.

Lipscomb Online offers online and hybrid programs that help working students hone their professional and academic competencies while earning an undergraduate or graduate degree. The unique CORE assessment center is a one-day simulation of workplace interactions and challenges that allows students to demonstrate the competencies they have already developed. Students may earn up to 30  undergraduate or six graduate credits in only one day, offering significant time savings for the busy adult who is balancing work and family obligations. 

To contribute to the Nugent Scholarship, visit Under “Select and Area,” choose “Other.” In the box that appears, enter “Michael Nugent Scholarship.”