New graduate balances life, school on way to degree

Sariah Faith
Sariah Faith
Sariah Faith stands inside NAUs Walkup Skydome before the start of today’s morning commencement ceremonies where her bachelor’s degree in computer information systems was conferred.

Growing up on the Hualapai Reservation, Sariah Faith knew she wanted things to be different. She saw people struggling and in poverty and she wanted to help, but she came to realize she’d first have to help herself by getting an education.

Faith’s road to earning a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems was a bumpy one. The single mom had a few stops and starts as she tried to strike a balance between taking enough classes to make progress and the necessity of working to support herself and her 2-year-old son.

In 2008, Faith enrolled in the CCC2NAU pilot program, which started her thinking about the day she might graduate from NAU.

“When you’re in the smaller community college, it’s so easy to end there,” Faith said. “You could see technical skills from the classes they offer, but in the CCC2NAU program, I saw the vision of being a university student and completing my four-year degree.”

CCC2NAU helped Faith shift gears and commit to school. She traded full-time work for full-time school and part-time classes for a part-time job. She applied for honor societies and scholarships and earned multiple awards, including one from the Johnson Scholarship Foundation specifically for Native American students studying business and entrepreneurship.

“Knowing I had scholarships to support me throughout my educational career kept me from constantly worrying about finances,” Faith said. “It allowed me to live, go through school and raise my son without putting my education on the side.”

With that financial help, Faith has excelled. She achieved a 3.0 GPA, earned a Gold Axe Award and was selected to serve as the standard bearer for The W.A. Franke College of Business in today’s fall commencement ceremonies. She credited her professors for her achievements, and the support they provided has inspired her to apply for MBA programs at Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth and others.

“My professors encouraged me, gave me extra pushes and challenged me on a daily basis,” Faith said. “I feel like I underestimate myself. When they give me more support or encouragement, I know I can do better.”

After graduate school, Faith plans to bring her business skills and interest in green technologies back to the Hualapai Reservation. But for now, she will take the encouragement and support of her professors and bestow it on others so they will pursue a degree.

“Just seeing how important getting an education is and seeing how I can apply it in real life is amazing,” Faith said. “I feel like I now have that instilled in me and I want to encourage other people to do the same thing.”