Her mother, father and sister didn’t go to college.
But Leslie Phillips, a 22-year-old Columbus native, never thought twice about continuing her education and became the first member of her family to do so.
She is one of 261 IUPUC students — 30 more than last year — who will be recognized in a commencement ceremony today at Columbus North High School.
Phillips, who now lives in Carmel, Kayla Freeman of Westport and Ted Frost of Nashville are among today’s graduates.
Phillips earned her degree in 3½ years. The 21st Century Scholar made the dean’s list every semester and is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Business with a concentration in management and a minor in sociology.
She was determined in her educational goals starting at an early age.
“It was never an option not to go. Ever since I was little, I just knew it was going to happen,” Phillips said.
She now works as a client service associate at consulting firm Advisa in Carmel.
Freeman, the 2014 Chancellor’s Scholar, will graduate at the top of her class with a perfect 4.0 GPA and will address classmates today. Graduating with a degree in business, she has earned several other accolades this year from the university.
She was named the Outstanding Student in Business and was honored with the Office of Student Research Grant Award, which funded a study on local sports tourism programs.
Under the guidance of Ryan Brewer, an assistant professor of finance, Freeman developed a model to estimate the economic impact of sports programs that doesn’t require event-specific surveys.
Frost, a registered nurse employed at Columbus Regional Hospital, made a decision that changed his career last summer when he returned to school after a 14-year hiatus. He tried to do it earlier in his life by attaining an advanced degree online, but he said he did not enjoy the online student experience.
Frost has completed the RN-to-BSN program, which is designed for working registered nurses who want to apply their associate degrees toward a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.
With the additional education, Frost said, he has rekindled a passion for learning and advanced his career, earning a special credential for operating room nurses.
Both Frost and Phillips attributed their success to the individualized attention that IUPUC prides itself in.
“It’s such a small campus, but that makes for a really cool dynamic,” Phillips. “It was an experience I would never trade for the world.”
She said the school’s motto — small campus, big degrees — is true.
“These three students are among those who have inspired us with their perseverance and dedication to excellence,” said Susan Sullivan, director of communication and marketing for the university.