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Student Spotlight: Taryn Speakman

One of the beautiful things about getting a college degree is that there is no one-size-fits-all. For some, the road to higher education starts immediately after high school. For others, it begins after years of working and starting a family. And, for a select few like Taryn Speakman, it starts after having to leave your career to care for your sick husband. Starting her junior year in the B.S. in Applied Communications program at ACU Online, Taryn models what it means to work hard for what you want, even when life gets really tough. Placing her hope in Christ and focusing on her educational journey, Taryn is making her mark in this world as a career-driven woman who has undergone so much, yet chooses to remain joyful through it all. With deep aspirations to mentor other women and spread the good news of Christ, Taryn is eager to see what else is in store for her, her family, and her walk with God. 

Young and Bright in Corporate America

Born into a military family and growing up in Germany with an English father and an American mother, Taryn moved around quite a bit during her childhood and adolescence. Moving from country to country and state to state, she eventually settled in Colorado, where she met her husband and married at 19 years old. Taryn, blissfully in love and admittedly naive, remembers the young couples’ first conversations about college and their future. They both agreed that because they couldn’t both afford to go to school, she would begin looking for work in hopes of becoming a manager or supervisor during her husband’s college years. 

“I remember talking with him and saying, ‘Hey, I don’t know what I want to do with my life, and you do. Why don’t you go [to college], and I’ll just start working,'” Taryn says. “And honestly, I started really excelling at it, which was both a blessing and a curse, to be honest.” 

Working for multiple companies related to oil and gas in the greater Denver area before relocating near Houston in 2013, Taryn remembers being the youngest person in every meeting. Leveling up year after year, Taryn moved up the corporate ladder wherever she went. And while she found great success as a young career woman with no college degree, Taryn recognized the constant affirmation began to make her prideful. 

“I just remember thinking to myself, ‘Wow, look at me,’ and honestly, that wasn’t helping me at all,” Taryn expresses. “It was definitely giving me the idea that success and career were the most important things in life. I kept telling myself that it was clear that I didn’t need college.” 

Fast forward to 2018, Taryn was about to face some harsh realities: that year, she learned about her husband’s cancer diagnosis right before she lost her job due to a company acquisition. Unsure how she would care for her husband’s medical expenses or growing family, Taryn felt overwhelmed. How was she going to provide care for her family now? Who would sustain them during this time of transition and uncertainty? Feeling down and in over her head, it was then that she decided to rededicate her life to Christ. Having seen where she was just a few years ago, at the top of her game and well-established in the oil and gas industry, Taryn realized that it wasn’t corporate America that sustained her, but God – and that’s all she would ever need. Turning her efforts to becoming a full-time caregiver to her husband, Taryn acknowledged that it isn’t your job title or the amount of money you make that defines you. “You are a child of God,” Taryn exclaims. “That’s what and who defines you. What else do you need?” 

Changing Times and Returning to School

As time passed, and two years came and went, Taryn revisited the idea of potentially returning to work. Holding more than 20 years of experience and a renewed faith in Christ, Taryn felt peaceful about her new job-hunting journey. Still, that didn’t mean the journey became any more straightforward. Taryn turned in hundreds of applications but recalled being turned down repeatedly—all because she couldn’t check the box that stated she had a formal degree. Times had changed, and Taryn knew if she wanted to get back into the game, she would need to go to school, and it would have to be an act of God.

“I just remember praying to God and saying, ‘God, if you open any door and I am financially able to go, I promise I’ll go back to school,’ Taryn explains. “And it wasn’t until I got rejected so many times that I finally got a call back at the amazing company I work for now [Crown Castle]. It was like God was saying, ‘Remember what you promised.’ Three months later, I started researching online colleges.” 

Looking for a university that would work with her schedule and busy life, Taryn laughed when she first remembers seeing ACU Online. She was picking up her father from the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston and looking over her shoulder saw a digital advertisement for ACU Online. She immediately went home and researched what programs ACU Online offered and which would best suit her career goals. Without hesitation, Taryn filled out an application and got a call from her admissions advisor minutes after hitting submit. Call it luck or chance, but for Taryn, it was an act of God. 

“It was the most amazing conversation,” she says. “I knew it the moment we started talking. Everything about it was what I wanted. From the personal touch to the fact that it was in Texas, was a Christian university, had the degree I was looking for, and an emphasis on adult learners, it was just what I was looking for. It was absolutely perfect!” 

Looking Up And Moving Forward

Taryn enrolled in the B.S. in Applied Communications program in 2021 while working full-time as the Director of National Facilities and Workplace Management for Crown Castle. She looks back at her journey thus far with a sense of wonder and awe. From moving across the globe to marrying young, working in corporate America, starting a family, combatting a loved one’s cancer battle, being rejected by multiple companies, and now starting a new career and degree, Taryn is beyond thankful and gives all the glory to God. 

“I just think about all the things my family and I have gone through, and it just makes me want to tear up,” Taryn confesses. “God was with us that whole time. He opened all of those doors. He is the one that got us through that, and I am so thankful for that.” 

Hoping to graduate in 2024, Taryn isn’t afraid of what is next in store and is open to wherever God wants her to go. Her perspective on career and mission has been transformed through her classes that have emphasized vocational formation. Thinking back to her biblical courses and professors, Taryn learned the importance of honoring God in everything you do. Having gone through hell and back, Taryn is now known for encouraging other women to focus and follow God, who can make all things happen for good. Taryn’s strength comes from Him. That’s what has given her the most tremendous success in life thus far, and she’s not going back to a life without Him. 

Are you interested in experiencing a transformational education like Taryn Speakman? Visit our website or call 855-219-7300 to learn how you can step into a fulfilling, innovative future at ACU Online.

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