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‘My online degree from Purdue Global gave me the confidence I needed’

Black and white photo of Desiré Hunter, wearing a three-tier necklace, wavy hair, and a black scoop-neck shirt

Desiré Hunter says she knew it was time to create new opportunities for herself and her family. (Purdue University photo/John Underwood)

Desiré Hunter says her master’s degree in psychology showed her she was capable of so much more.

When Desiré Hunter (MS industrial/organizational psychology ’21, Purdue Global) began entertaining the idea of going back to school, she was in a Target parking lot, waiting for her kids while they shopped. She pulled out her phone, Googled online psychology degrees and found a handful of options. She tapped the first phone number on the list. The person on the other end answered with something rather surprising. 

“Purdue Global; how can I help you?” 

Hunter thought she was calling a different university. She laughed at the sheer poetry of it because there was something the person on the other end of the line could have no way of knowing.  

“I’m from the South, and Purdue is one of the hottest schools that’s talked about where I’m from,” she says, looking back on the exchange. “I always wanted to attend, but I just thought I wasn’t smart enough.” 

Hunter felt like it was a sign from God. 

By the end of the conversation, her path forward was clear. 

When you look back and realize you went from ‘I don’t know if I can ever do this’ to ‘I did it,’ you know you can do anything.

Desiré Hunter 
MS psychology ’21, Purdue Global 

A steppingstone for her whole family in one online program 

But the journey to that Target parking lot, so to speak, was a long one. She’d pictured things going a little differently for her life. One thing, however, was never in doubt. 

The mom of four says, “My greatest dream is that I always wanted to be a mom. I grew up in a family with four kids; that dynamic was my norm. I could never imagine having one or two!” 

“I love that they’re all unique. I used to write things about them. I would say, ‘God blessed me with four angels who are leaders.’ I love that they own their brilliance.” 

During a devastating divorce that took two years to finalize, Hunter and her kids relocated to Chicago from their home in rural Mississippi. There, she found herself working with youth on the west side of Chicago, coaching them on their career goals. But one day, to direct her students toward their gut instincts, she posed a scenario. If someone woke them out of a dead sleep and asked them what one thing they wanted to do in life, what would they say? 

It was … well, effective. The question wouldn’t leave her mind, long after work was done for the day. 

“I found myself asking the same question. What would I do?” she says.  

Desiré Hunter poses with her kids in front of Purdue’s Big Bass Drum, wearing her cap, gown and graduation hood, holding her diploma
When Desiré Hunter graduated with her master’s degree in industrial/organizational psychology, she attended commencement ceremonies in West Lafayette with her four kids. (Photo provided)

Having grown up in an area where people didn’t have a lot of career options, Hunter found it deeply meaningful to be able to connect with people and help them better understand their true calling, and then point them in the right direction.  

And yet, it felt like something was missing. So she went back to her roots. As a kid, she’d always wanted to be a psychologist. But her interests shifted when she got older, and she earned her bachelor’s in business from the University of Southern Mississippi. Once she reentered the workforce after staying home with her kids, she found that social services put her interests and skill set to work together.  

She definitely wasn’t on the wrong track. But maybe, Hunter thought, it was time to take it to the next level. She loved helping people figure out where to start in a career, but why stop at the starting line? Why not see it all the way through? 

“I wanted to learn to really dig deeper with people,” she says. “Connect with them on a higher level so they can thrive in their workplaces,” she says. “I wanted to help them accomplish their goals.” 

That’s when she had a date with destiny in a Target parking lot. 

She talked with the Purdue Global admissions counselor about how a master’s in industrial/organizational psychology would neatly pull together all the right things — her backgrounds in business and social services. Her fascination with how the mind works. Her talent for helping people find the right career path and thrive in it.  

“That was a Saturday,” she says. “I had everything I needed to start making decisions on Monday.” 

How a working student and single mom learned to believe  

Back when she first moved to Chicago, Hunter had to contend with a 14-year gap in her resumé (from when she stayed home with her kids). If the bare-bones resumé, the end of her marriage and the move to one of the biggest cities in the country weren’t enough to make her doubt herself, the interviews with potential employers did it. 

After hearing employers say that her work experience wasn’t enough, she made a decision. “I just started saying yes to some things,” she says. “And the more things I said yes to, the more I started having wins along the way. It helped encourage me to believe in myself.” 

And now, working toward an online degree backed by a university she never realized she was smart enough to attend, she was seeing in real time she could do more than she knew. But a friend pointed out something important. 

“They told me, ‘Desiré, you accomplish these goals, but as soon as you accomplish them, you go right into the next without celebrating your successes.’ I always kept moving because I felt like if I stopped to celebrate, I’d lose my momentum,” she says. 

That’s not what happened. Stopping to celebrate would keep up Hunter’s spirits and motivate her to keep pressing on when things got stressful. And it was a reminder that her accomplishments were worthy of respect. It forced her to remember the wins. Point to them. Count them. Build on them. 

“I used to take myself out,” she says, smiling. “I used to get a slice of key lime pie because it’s my favorite. Now I do things that are creative. I learned how to draw. I make videos. Sometimes I help someone, show some act of kindness. I write handwritten letters — scribbles and all — because those are things that feed the soul for me.”  

Now that she has her master’s degree in hand, she says her hard work has given her the gift of evidence — proof that she’s a force to be reckoned with. 

“No matter what you’re experiencing, you can do anything,” she says, tearing up. “When you look back and realize you went from ‘I don’t know if I can ever do this’ to ‘I did it,’ you know you can do anything. 

“I encourage other moms to let go of the idea that you’re going to harm your children’s futures by trying to secure yours. As a mom, you often think if you take time away from your kids, you’re damaging them. You’re actually giving to them. I’m giving to my kids because I’ll get older someday. And the more I do for myself now, the less they’ll have to do for me then.”