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Posada fights cancer, earns degree with support from her network
Stephen Greenwell
Ruth Posada.
Ruth Posada.

When Ruth Posada walks across the stage on May 11 to accept her master's degree in Information Technology Project Management, it will be in recognition of her dogged perseverance that included a fight against multiple forms of cancers.

“I received my health diagnosis of cervical and stomach cancer in the middle of applying for the master's program,” she said. “I was overwhelmed as my oncologist recommended for me to wait after surgery and completion of treatments. However, those close to me know that if I am told no, I will just do the opposite. It was no surprise to those who know me that 'no' was never an option for me. I have always been a very determined individual, and once I commit to something, I will fulfill that commitment.”

The effort has been harrowing at times for Posada, but she said that having multiple items to focus on and care about — her family, the pursuit of her degree — helped in her recovery.

“Honestly, if I did not have school to focus on, I am not sure I would have been so successful with my treatments. School allowed me to push myself harder and it gave me a breath of fresh air when doctor appointments were tough,” she said.

“In December of 2022, I was rushed to the hospital due to internal bleeding post-surgery complications from my stomach surgery. I had finals that week and right before surgery, my words to my doctor were I need to recover fast, I have finals in less than 48 hours. I knew the professors would work with me, but I had too much pride to request an extension. Needless to say, I was on a hospital bed taking finals. Obviously, this is not how I had pictured my UH experience to be like, but I believe there is a reason for everything. I hope my story motivates someone who is struggling or feels defeated.”

Posada wasn't alone in her fight, as she identified her husband Wes and her children, Jakki and Anthony, as supporting her extensively.

“There were times I was tired and exhausted, and the side-effects of brain fog made it very challenging for me to focus, but on these days I was frustrated, they comforted me with words of encouragement,” she said. “My kids were giving me the advice I would give them during difficult times and there was no way I was going to give up. My kids reminded me of the promise I made to my grandmother when I was little, that I would reach every goal I set my mind too because all she ever asked from me was to obtain a college education.”

Posada is a first generation college graduate. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Phoenix. She decided to pursue her degree while in the process of adopting a child.

“Being a first generation graduate, I had no one who could guide me through the process, so I had to select a university that had online courses because I had to juggle work, traveling for work, and my family,” she said. “During this time of my life, we were going through an adoption process here in Houston, and during the adoption process I realized I wanted to break cycles in my family. The only way to do this was to get an education, so my kids had better opportunities. The University of Phoenix was the university that fit that criteria at that time.”

While she wasn't able to get her bachelor's degree at UH, she identified it as a school she knew she wanted to attend one day.

“Once I made the decision to obtain my master's, I knew UH was on top of the list,” she said. “After a lot of research, I was glad that UH provided the master's program that I was interested in, Technology Project Management. I was impressed by the curriculum and the way the program was designed to apply to real world projects.”

At UH, she identified two professors as being significant, positive influences on her progress — Dennis L. Sherman, instructional assistant professor of Technology Project Management, and Lila Carden, assistant professor of Technology Project Management.

“Both of them have always gone above and beyond, to be there for me and guide me through this journey,” she said. “Every lesson taught by both of these professors and the passion they have for teaching and wanting each student to be successful is why I am overwhelmed with appreciation for all they have taught me through this academic journey. Listening to their own challenges throughout their careers and the success stories they have shared with me only motivated me to make it to the end.”

Carden said she was happy to support Posada’s pursuit of her degree, noting that her determination was something she noticed immediately.

“As a part of Ruth’s network, I focused on her entire experience of achieving student success, which included instruction, leading, coaching, mentoring, motivating and listening,” Carden said. “During my first conversation with Ruth about her capstone project topic, I listened to her as she shared about being a woman in the oil and gas industry and about the challenges of a Hispanic woman working in project management in information technology.”

“My response to Ruth was, ‘If I had listened to the words people said to me, I would not be teaching today. Instead let it bring fire in you.’ The fire that Ruth displayed was evident by selecting her professional work project as her academic capstone project as well as by utilizing her motivation to implement teamwork, leadership, communication and project management skills to meet the requirements of the course. Ruth's aforementioned attributes and skills are pivotal for her advancement in the STEM workforce.”

Posada added that her classmates and teammates refused to treat her any differently when they learned about her health issues, which she was grateful for. Her graduation cap is focused on all of these positive influences.

“My cap quotes, 'I wanted to quit but then I remembered who I was doing this for,' and it has pictures of me with my family and my grandmother,” she said. “I am also thankful to my family and my siblings for their unconditional love and support and to many of my friends who have followed my story and have cheered me on.”

With her degree in hand, Posada said she is open to a range of new opportunities.

“Earning my master's is an achievement that I never thought was possible, so as I prepare for graduation I am full of pride and joy,” she said. “I am confident this degree will open doors so I can become a full project manager. I eventually hope to reach my goal of a PMO, either within my organization or another organization. I want to also focus on mentoring others who want to return to school and perhaps don't know where to start or those who just need a support system through their journey.”

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