Longtime partners in life and the pursuit of higher education, Tuccoa and Damon Polk have been together since they were 19 years old. Tuccoa is finishing up her first year in ACU’s online Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership program. Damon is two courses into his ACU Online Master of Business Administration degree.
Their relationship is one of championing and inspiring each other while working full-time and parenting. Tuccoa is a research administrator at the University of California at Merced. She explains, “For the last 10 or 15 years, my career had been in grants management, nonprofit management. What I now do at the university level is essentially train faculty on how to write grants to find money to conduct the research.”
Damon works in real estate development. The couple has two children, both of whom are very supportive of their high-achieving parents. Damon Polk II is 14 years old and a freshman in high school, and daughter Coco is in 3rd grade. Tuccoa shares, “What I hope is that we’re modeling for them the importance of education. I think the fact that they see the two of us doing it together will have an impact that’s going to pay off for generations in our family.”
Planting the seed as undergraduate sweethearts
Damon is originally from Oakland, California and was pursuing his undergraduate degree in political science at California State University, Stanislaus when he met Los Angeles-born Tuccoa. She was studying at Fresno State University. Tuccoa remembers, “I met Damon and fell in love, and God told me he was going to be my husband. So I transferred to his campus, which was about two hours away, and we both graduated from Cal State Stanislaus in 1999.”
Tuccoa went straight to graduate school and earned her master’s in public administration from Golden Gate University in San Francisco. “Damon worked and helped me get through graduate school, and then we got married in 2002 and have lived happily ever after,” she says.
Making the decision to attend ACU Online
When asked about what initiated the decision to pursue her Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership, Tuccoa shares, “Lots of encouragement from Damon, because I’ve wanted to pursue my doctorate for a while. I had a season where I was a full-time stay-at-home mom, and so that was my priority until our youngest started kindergarten. And then I started to think about it, but would keep talking myself out of it.”
Bolstered by the confidence Damon had in her, Tuccoa applied to ACU and found the application process very easy. She selected the Ed.D. program at ACU with the emphasis on higher education because her ultimate goal is to be the director of research and development on a college campus.
Tuccoa’s excitement and happiness during the first year of her program lit a fire in Damon who was looking at different schools for his MBA. Tuccoa encouraged him to consider ACU, ensuring him that “the support they give you is just phenomenal.” Damon replied, “Okay, I’ll do that. Then I did, and here I am.”
Damon explains his motivation for pursuing an MBA at ACU: “I’ve been in business since I graduated, and it’s a lot of fun. I enjoy it all, but I want to have new skills as I’m getting older and competing with recent graduates and younger employees. I’m getting the MBA with a focus on advanced data analytics.”
He continues, “Being able to understand how to make decisions—even better decisions based upon data—I think that’s fascinating.” Damon also likes the flexibility an MBA gives him if he ever wants to move out of real estate development and into other areas.
The value of a Christian campus
The Polks both felt very strongly about aligning themselves with a Christian school. Damon explains, “We want to make sure that we are involved and engaged with a university that reflects our personal values, our Christian values, as they are number one for us. And so, being able to say that we go to Abilene Christian University is something that we take pride in.”
Tuccoa agrees: “I wanted to be at a campus that was going to support our values as Christians, because I felt like I was going to need God more than ever if I was going to be a mom, a full-time employee, and a graduate student. I was looking purposefully and intentionally for a program that was willing to support my faith.”
The couple has very much appreciated the prayerful orientation of ACU’s faculty. “My professors have said, ‘Is there anything that I can pray for you about?’” Damon shares. “And they’ve also said, ‘Please pray for me,’ and, ‘This is what I need prayer for.’ So that’s been exciting to see that their faith has been at the forefront of the coursework, as well.”
When asked if there was anything they could pass on to other couples sharing a similar educational journey, Tuccoa offers, “It definitely is not easy to be a married couple, students, and parents, so we have to be deliberate about protecting our marriage and honoring that first. And making sure that we’re making enough time for each other along with prioritizing school. I would just encourage other folks to make sure that your support system is in place.”