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Always On Time: A Student’s Perseverance During a Master’s Degree in Nonprofit Management

A Student’s Perseverance for a Master's Degree in Nonprofit Management. Discover the Online Master's Degree in Nonprofit Management at Grace.

Do you believe that God is always on time? When He asks you to wait, it’s hard to trust His good intentions. If your wait has felt insurmountable, the story of Patryce Collins-Richardson is for you.


The starting line

Young Collins-Richardson was a girl with a dream.

As a child, she’d snuggle up next to her mom to watch fashion shows on TV. She loved the thrill of watching the designers create beautiful pieces from unexpected materials. She and her mom would decide which designers were their favorites and which they would send home if they were the judges. By the time Collins-Richardson entered high school, her love for fashion had grown into a passion.

At 18, she was accepted at Parsons School of Design. However, the housing options were not within her financial means. Yet what most people might’ve seen as a roadblock, Collins-Richardson saw as a redirection from God.


Taking off

Collins-Richardson instead completed a merchandising management degree at Michigan State. While preparing to head to Florida for a retail management job, she was directed elsewhere again.

A family friend told her about a job opportunity in Michigan that gave her the exact financial support she needed, but it was not what she had planned. Instead of managing merchandise, she’d be aiding and advocating for the vulnerable through social work.

“I never assumed I would work in unemployment and social work, let alone it becoming my 30 year career!” said Collins-Richardson.

She fell in love with social work, particularly with the counseling role and management opportunities the field provided.

“The job is all about working with people who really need help,” she said. “The people you work with come from all different walks of life. Some are doctors, while others are factory workers. Some have been laid off from their jobs, while others have had to step away for health reasons. I knew that I was meeting with unique, skilled people who needed to feel heard. That job taught me a lot about what I wanted to do with my life.”

A different direction

After nearly 30 years in the field, Collins-Richardson again felt the pull from God to chase a new opportunity. At 57 years old, she decided to pursue her online master’s degree in nonprofit management.

“I had looked all over for a master’s degree in nonprofit management that fit what I was wanting,” said Collins-Richardson. “My husband advised me to ‘let God lead’ me. So I did. Shortly after, I was looking through a magazine featuring the best online colleges around the world, and that is where I found Grace College!”

The master’s degree was the perfect fit for Collins-Richardson. She felt that she was a valuable contributor to the class discussions because of her experience in government management.

“It just clicked for me,” she said. “My unique background of working with so many different individuals set me up for success in this field.”


Facing obstacles

While Collins-Richardson excelled in her schoolwork, she underwent some of the most difficult medical procedures of her life while taking her classes. She faced kidney failure, diabetes struggles, and eye surgery all during her education, and it took a serious toll, mentally as well as physically.

“I seriously began to think, ‘How will I ever finish this?’” she said. “But I remembered that God had led me to this degree, and He didn’t bring me this far for me to quit now.”

The last two semesters of her nonprofit masters degree online were the most challenging, but the end was in sight. Collins-Richardson relied heavily on the support system provided by her loving husband, understanding professors, and prayerful classmates.

“It is so crazy that you can feel connected to people online, but I truly did,” she said. “Their stories became an encouragement that turned into a friendship.”

But as Collins-Richardson neared the finish line, tragedy struck. The month of graduation, her husband passed away. With his passing came unbelievable grief.

“I was so close to the finish line, but how was I to go on without my husband, my main supporter?” said Collins-Richardson.

But God was not finished with Collins-Richardson’s story yet. He brought other online students, friends, her church, and her beloved daughter alongside her to support her in completing what she started.

“Patryce overcame so many obstacles during her time in online education,” said Dr. Tim Ziebarth, dean of the School of Professional and Online Education. “She has been through a lot, but it is amazing to see how she has persevered through it all.”

“I gave her the option to pause her education process as needed,” said Dr. Stephen Gill, director of the degree program. “But she asked me for resources to help her push through, and we talked about a plan to help her complete everything in the midst of trials. She is truly an inspiration.”

The finish line

Collins-Richardson graduated with her online master’s degree in nonprofit management in May of 2023.

“It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but God made a way for me,” she said.

After she finished, God’s purpose for the degree became clear. Collins-Richardson was soon approached by her church’s leadership, who offered her a grant-writing position for a performing arts center in the community.

She was also asked to help start a nonprofit organization for young women needing shelter and clothing in Detroit. It needed someone with a savvy fashion sense who could help young women dress to impress at job interviews.

God is on time.

“My husband didn’t get to see me in my cap and gown, but I know he would be proud,” Collins-Richardson said. “Working hard until 2 a.m. and fighting through kidney failure was never just about getting my degree. It was all for making a difference in God’s Kingdom. He was always steps ahead of me, and for that I am thankful.”


If you’re looking for a way to change lives, explore a nonprofit masters degree online at Grace College.

Tagged With: Grace Online, School of Business, Student Stories

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