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maryssa oliver and family

Dragon Descendants: Maryssa Oliver’s Story as a Third-Generation Student

Dragon Descendants: Maryssa Oliver’s Story as a Third-Generation Student

For many people looking to pursue a college degree, the process of selecting an institution that is just right can be overwhelming. As there are nearly 4,000 accredited colleges and universities operating in the U.S., this is an understandable dilemma. Many prospective students spend months researching, touring and interviewing at dozens of schools before determining where to apply. This, however, was not the case for a new Tiffin University alumna, Maryssa Oliver, who knew she wanted to join the Dragon Family by the age of six. When asked about her willingness to share her story as a third-generation Dragon with the public, she jumped at the chance.

According to Maryssa, she began telling people she would be going to TU in the hopes of becoming a mathematics teacher very early in life, and spoke to the subject with a decided conviction, even as a young girl. She didn’t just want to attend TU; she would study here. For Maryssa, there was no plan B, as her maternal grandfather is a TU alumnus, having spent many years as a decorated law enforcement officer post-graduation. However, the determining factor for Maryssa was seeing firsthand how faculty and staff treated her mother, who earned her own degree through TU. As a then-single parent of two daughters and full-time factory worker, Delayna Somers’s educational journey is nothing short of inspiring. Delayna used what little free time she had to further her education, despite the obvious strain of filling these many roles. Though it happened over a decade ago, Maryssa clearly remembers her mother’s grit during moments of hardship.

“There were a lot of nights my grandparents had to put my sister and me to bed, because she was still at school,” said Maryssa. “Sometimes my mom would cry alone in her room because she felt so overwhelmed. I remember a specific conversation she had with my grandma, even though I was only five at the time. She told her, ‘You know, if I can just follow through with this, it’ll be the best decision not only for my daughters’ lives, but for mine.’ I always knew she was trying to set us up for a better future.”

For Maryssa’s mother, the hard work and perseverance paid off. She is now a Senior Accountant at Bridgestone APM Company, and both she and Maryssa commend TU for its commitment to go above and beyond in accommodating students, whether traditional or non-traditional.

“Tiffin University was willing to be open-minded throughout my experience to ensure that I would graduate with my desired degree,” Delayna said. “I will always recommend Tiffin University because they were ready to adapt to my full-time job and allowed me to bring in my children as a single mom. Because of the level of learning that I received at Tiffin University, I was able to take on corporate-level responsibilities without previous experience.”

Maryssa shares her mother’s sentiments and remembers their days spent together while on campus fondly, emphasizing the level of care she witnessed her mother receiving when she was a child.

“One of her professors at the time was Mike Herdlick, Associate Vice President for Institutional Advancement, and I remember he would always interact with my sister and me when my mom brought us to classes he taught. He even made it a point to always have coloring pages or other activities available for us to do while he lectured. To me, this showed he was more concerned over my mom finishing her education than about my sister and me being potential distractions. I’m going to be a teacher, myself, and this is the type of educator I aspire to be, one who cares about forming personal relationships over everything else.”

After earning dragon wings herself, Maryssa was faced with her own seemingly insurmountable obstacle while on campus. Similarly to her mother’s experience as a student, she received a high level of attention and flexibility from her mentors in light of this adversity.

“I came to TU wanting to be a high school math teacher, and while they didn’t already have this degree program available, they assured me they would figure something out, and tried. After several people failed at making this a reality, they ultimately suggested I transfer schools. I immediately began reaching out to all the ‘higher-ups’ as a last resort, because I knew I wanted to stay at my dream college. I ended up going to Dr. Joyce Hall-Yates, Vice Provost and Dean of the School of Arts & Sciences, in tears, and she set up a meeting with the necessary people right away. Before I knew it, everything had been figured out, and the university arranged for me to get the necessary classes done so I could earn the degree I wanted.”

Maryssa, like her mother, is grateful to those who helped make her dream a reality, to the faculty and staff who weren’t afraid to stray from conventional academic practices in the interest of giving her the tools for success. Having just graduated in December of 2021, Maryssa already misses these people, especially our own Dr. Joyce Hall-Yates. She said, “I’ve had the most incredible relationship with her. Even when it seemed like there was no way for me to get the degree I wanted from the school I love, she created a way, and I’m so grateful. She was on my side from day one, and it was so comforting to have her as my constant advocate. Because of my experience with her and everyone else, I recommend TU to anybody thinking of working or going to school here.”

Maryssa is currently completing the necessary field hours for her student teaching program, and expects to earn her teaching certification / licensure in April. She feels confident in her ability to achieve this end, thanks to the risks taken by her mentors on her behalf and the wonderful education she received. Her alma mater wishes Maryssa the very best in her personal and professional endeavors, and is proud to add her to its long list of distinguished and fiery alumni.