Alumni Spotlight: Beverly, EdD, “Thriving Despite Experiencing Stressors”

Beverly Naylor , ed.d

Beverly Naylor graduated with her Doctor of Education Leadership and Learning, specializing in Organizational Psychology in June 2023.  Beverly experienced several health setbacks during the pursuit of her degree, but she was able to persevere and accomplish all of her goals.  Keep reading to hear about Beverly’s journey.


Salutogenesis, which refers to how one thrives despite experiencing stressors, was a theme in my dissertation and it exemplifies my doctoral pursuit. My doctoral pursuit was a strength that helped me cope with the stress that accompanied a diagnosis of colon cancer, in April 2018, which resulted in surgery and chemotherapy. When the colon cancer metastasized to my brain, in 2019, and I required 3 brain surgeries, my doctoral pursuit provided a purpose to continue the fight forward.

Some of the stressors I faced during my doctoral program included:

  • 4 surgeries for colon cancer
  • 3 craniotomies for cancer
  • Chemotherapy
  • Collision
  • Cyberknife radiotherapy

In January 2018, I began my doctoral pursuit with excitement. Only a few weeks earlier, I had attended my commencement ceremony for my Master of Science in Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning. I wanted to continue my academic pursuits. During my first doctoral course in Leadership, I applied my learning to my work as a Training Department director. I shared the course learning and activities with my colleagues. In April 2018, I was diagnosed with colon cancer and had my first surgery to remove a tumor. I was expecting to be back to my doctoral pursuit as soon as possible after my surgery and recovery. However, I had to contact my academic advisor to ask about an academic leave of absence when, during my first round of chemotherapy, I was rear-ended at a speed of 80mph while I had been stopped in a construction zone.

I resumed my studies in January 2019. During the first half of 2019, I complained of headaches and nausea. By July 2019, I was having balance issues. With a desire to participate in the 2019 event, Race to the Top of Vermont, I asked my medical team for advice. My occupational therapist, thinking that it was just vestibular issues, suggested that I use trekking poles for ascending and descending Mt. Mansfield.

On August 25, 2019, I participated in “Race to the Top of Vermont” and ascended Mt. Mansfield. I then returned home to complete my weekly assignment. As I sat in front of my computer, I felt like something in my brain snapped and I could not concentrate or focus. A few weeks later, an MRI revealed massive inflammation and a tumor. The colon cancer had metastasized to my brain. I was placed on emergency standby for brain surgery, and I requested another leave of academic absence. During my absence, I received Cyberknife radiation treatments. I continued my recovery process.

In March 2020, COVID-19 shut down society. As I was unpacking the car from a central Florida vacation, my military doctor called to inform me that all visits would be virtual. Furthermore, I was instructed to self-isolate for 12 weeks to minimize the risk of catching Covid. What was I to do? I had just hibernated in my small bedroom for 5 months as I recovered. I had finally recovered enough to get outside and spread my wings. Now I was being asked to isolate for another 3 months. I promptly re-enrolled in my studies. My doctoral pursuit was now a virtual escape from the monotony of isolation. April 2020 found me back in my studies despite cognitive issues. I had to invest more time in reading the materials. Due to the light sensitivity associated with the computer screen, I minimized my screen time. I wrote old-style, paper and pen, before approaching my desktop.

In October 2020, two more tumors were found which required additional Cyberknife radiation therapy. The radiotherapy was scheduled between the finish and start dates of my courses. This allowed me to have time for the treatment without interfering with assignments. I became study partners with a fellow student and we remained study partners until the end of our programs. I received additional cancer treatments in January 2021 and decided to reduce my courseload in May 2021. I wanted to train for the “International Nijmegen Virtual Marches,” which had been a goal of mine for 30 years. The event had gone virtual due to Covid restrictions. My training was requiring 4-5 hours a day, 4 days a week. This time off enabled me to complete 4 days of 25 miles, July, 20-23 2021. Similar to doing 4 back-to-back marathons.

With that event completed, my focus was back on my dissertation. Just as IRB approval was granted in June 2022, my brain started experiencing cognitive issues from radiation necrosis.  I reached out to my Chair for guidance and to maintain focus. Immediately after writing Chapter 4 of my dissertation, I had my second brain surgery.  This required another academic leave of absence from October 2022 to February 2023. I was able to defend my dissertation research in May 2023 and graduated with my doctoral degree in June 2023, a week after I had a third brain surgery.

My husband and I attended the 2023 graduate reception and commencement ceremony in Phoenix by doing a once-in-a-lifetime road trip from Ottawa, Canada to Phoenix, AZ where we pleasured to meet some of my professors and grads with whom I had shared part of my academic journey. This trip enabled us to raise our tally to 49 states visited and 32 state Capitols. Driving to Phoenix provided us the opportunity to visit much of the United States.

My recommendation for anyone experiencing negative life setbacks is to communicate one’s needs with the university. There is a support system in place but is only of benefit if the university is aware of the student’s needs. My research presentation is available on Aspen’s 2023 Fall Colloquium. The key to persevering to doctoral completion under adverse conditions is to maintain one’s desire to complete. As one participant stated, it’s easy to find excuses.


Beverly is an inspiring example of how to continue striving, and thriving, despite the setbacks one may experience.  Aspen’s faculty and staff are here to support you through your educational journey!  If you need assistance, you can reach your academic advisor at

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