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The Balancing Act of Mothers: Words of Inspiration from Graziadio Moms

Mother's Day 2022

As we continue to develop in our careers to become the most successful versions of our professional selves, it is through the fulfillment of our personal lives that we are able to take on more. We look towards our role models, the ones who believe in us from day one, to support us through every decision we make. They inspire us to dream big and follow our hearts – not letting anything or anyone get in the way of our goals. As we grow up, the torch is handed to us, influencing us to lead as role models for others to look up to (also, literally). One step at a time, we incorporate the life lessons we have learned along the way to pass along to future role models that carry their own unique vision of leadership and acts of integrity. You might be thinking, who are these role models in my life? Take a look at your mother – and quite possibly, you!

This Mother’s Day, we are honored to be amongst incredible women who work hard day in and day out to accomplish their dreams, as students, mothers, and role models. Strength, confidence, and passion are the traits that glow from mother to mother at Graziadio, encouraging others around them to optimistically follow in their footsteps. As we recognize three outstanding mothers advancing in their careers through obtaining a Part-Time Master of Business Administration (FEMBA) degree from Pepperdine Graziadio, Daniela Wiskow Smith, Victoria Shackelford, and Le’Kieah Williams are paving the way for future generations (including their own children) to pursue their passions with purpose. Immerse yourself in the words of wisdom given by Graziadio mothers who are creating waves to make the world a better place.

Read their Interviews

Tell us a little bit about your family!

  • Daniela with kidsDaniela: My family of three (my kids, ages 13 and 14, and I - see image to the right) live in a little house in the canyons of the OC, surrounded by lots of pets and trees. We enjoy the outdoors – horseback riding, running, cycling, and hanging out with our dogs. 
  • Victoria: My husband, Drew, and I have been married for eight years. We have two daughters – Addison, five years old, and Olive, who recently turned two years old.
  • Le'Kieah: My son, Rajan, our dog, Koby, and I live together in the LA area. I have ten siblings, including myself, and was the first to attend college. I am close to my youngest sister, Tierra – she motivated me in numerous ways and inspired me to dream big. Tierra is a hairstylist at her beauty salon in Glendale. My mother is a bus operator for LAUSD and my father is a warehouse worker. After working in human resources for seven years, I took a  different path from my parents and wanted to pursue my own business – I now have a consulting agency called Kirene & Associates.

What drew you to attend Graziadio?

  • Daniela: It was a combination of the Christian values of the school and the flexibility of the program. Having worked for multiple companies before joining Graziadio, I have experienced how crucial ethical business practices are for the well-being of external and internal company stakeholders. Therefore, I was curious to learn how to run an ethical business. And, as a working single mom, I appreciated the ability to take classes at my own pace and online from time to time, even pre-pandemic. 
  • Victoria: If I’m being honest, the campus. When I first arrived in Los Angeles from Chicago, 17 years ago, I stayed with my cousin, a Pepperdine alumnus, in Santa Monica while I settled in. I drove by the Malibu campus every day and dreamed of attending school there! 14 years later, I finally started researching graduate programs. I appreciated the flexibility of the Graziadio program. Professionally, it was the right time for me to get my MBA. I was ready to move away from my Executive Assistant role – I just needed the education necessary to give me that career bump. Personally, it was a different story! I had just given birth to my second child and was working full time. The Graziadio Part-Time MBA program was the best option for me as it offers the option to move through the program at your own pace and take time off if needed. 
  • Le'Kieah: I was enticed to apply to Graziadio because of the great networking opportunities I have heard about and the familial feeling I experienced. I loved the campus in Malibu when I visited and wanted to learn more about the program. I also applied because of the various programs to aid me in seeking the corporate position I now have as a consultant. Also, I worked at Pepperdine in the past – this shaped my opinion about attending and the Christian values instilled in me. At Pepperdine, I see a diverse group of students with various backgrounds and education, influencing me to apply to Graziadio.

How does Graziadio support you throughout your education, being a mother and student?

  • Daniela: As mentioned, the flexibility of the program is priceless. Beyond that, I was able to bring my kids to weekend group work or study groups. We were always greeted with open arms, which allowed me to make my kids part of my Pepperdine community. 
  • Victoria: There are countless support options available in the Graziadio program. I’ve been working very closely with my advisors to figure out what class load I can handle while still aiming to graduate in a reasonable amount of time. When I pushed myself a bit too hard, the counseling center found someone for me to talk with and help me through it. I was able to meet with several career advisors to discuss potential job transitions. For a fresh look at a paper, the writing center has always been available to lend a hand. Above all, the ability to take a class virtually allows me to juggle my transition from job to mom to student in mere minutes. I’m forever grateful for all of the help this program provides and continues to provide throughout my education!
  • Le'Kieah: This program has helped me in numerous ways. They pray for my family during classes and support me with various tutoring and office hours. In addition, I like that they offer online learning for students. Graziadio offers so many resources and different types of aid to assist.

What are some of the lessons you are learning by being a mother and attending graduate business school at the same time?

  • Daniela: Throughout my life, I have always been a good student. Yet, being a mom and knowing that my academic and consequent career success builds a foundation for our family, I have worked extra hard to earn good grades throughout this program, which paid off. I graduated with a 3.9. In a nutshell: I have learned that being a mom gives me wings. 
  • Victoria with kidsVictoria: There is so much out of my control as a mom. One night, as I finally sat down after a busy week to work on a project, my husband called me from his first Daddy/ Daughter Dance to tell me that our five-year-old (pictured with me and my two-year-old to the right) was in tears. I threw on an outfit, a coat of mascara, and was out the door in five minutes to help my daughter cheer up – and it was absolutely worth it! This happens all day long as a mom with a career while attending graduate school. Unforeseen problems escalate, priorities shift, plans change, and you move forward. You learn to go with the flow. To stop wasting time being upset that a problem has happened and get to work on fixing it as soon as possible because the next challenge is right around the corner. 
  • Le'Kieah: In undergrad, I worked graveyards and paid my tuition my senior year. I also had an internship and was pregnant at the same time. That year of 2012 was the hardest I have ever pushed myself. I had my son in the summer of 2013 and learned the actual value of grit and hard work. The same lessons I would take with me into graduate school. I am constantly learning to balance a lot of responsibilities. Balancing is critical. I have a planner that I regularly refer to and plan my days out every week. One lesson is to take time to rest. Often, I want to keep moving and get things done; rest is essential. I learned to take time away and enjoy leisure time, which I do monthly at Burke Williams. Being a mother, I include my son and even teach my son certain concepts, which helps me reinforce what I learned. Try not to compare yourself with others, especially those who aren’t in the same position as you. I have had times when I felt I could do more if I had fewer responsibilities. These thoughts were detrimental. I learned positive thinking; resilience is vital. At work and in school, I was my advocate. This is very important in your career and personal life to speak up. Know your value and ask for the resources you need!

What advice do you have for moms aspiring to earn their degrees?

  • Daniela: There is no excuse for you not to do it. All of us moms live with “mom guilt”, but I can assure you that the time you may need to spend away from your kids will pay off, and you will be able to give back so much more than you – and they – have sacrificed. When my kids were little, a good friend told me: "The days are long but the years are short", which has gotten me through each and every long day and has, at the same time, taught me to cherish all those little, special moments.
  • Victoria: Remember when you couldn’t imagine adding a child into your already busy life, but you figured it out? It’s just like that- you figure it out. Here are a few things I figured out:
    • Take any and all help that is offered to you. It took my husband and me some time, but we finally found a balance of trading off picking up the girls from school and getting help from babysitters to free up time for class and homework.

    • Make a plan and schedule your time in advance. Know what needs to get done and block off time on your calendar. Prioritize three “must-dos” from each category every week: work, school, and life.
    • Take care of yourself. As a mom, you will always be needed, but make sure you do something just for yourself every day. 
  • Le'Kieah: I would say, bet on yourself and be your cheerleader. There will be times when you will want to quit. These are the times when your values will be tested. Make sure to plan, block out times during studying, and read chapters before it is due. I would also suggest completing assignments ahead of time when you have “extra” time to spare. Ask for help and be your advocate. No one knows what you need except YOU.

What words of wisdom do you have for your children as they develop their passions and values?

  • Daniela: Live your dream and strive for academic excellence early in life. I went back to school later on, which made the journey much harder. I hope my kids will choose to earn their Master’s or Doctoral degrees much earlier in life to earn a much greater ROI on their education. After all, time is money. Plus, a degree in a field you are passionate about will allow you to love your work and live your passion. 
  • Le'Kieah with sonVictoria: 1. It’s going to be easier to take on life’s challenges when you have a solid foundation to work from. That foundation is built by balancing nutrition, exercise, sleep, and mindfulness. 2.  Never rush into a solution. Take a breath and evaluate all options before deciding which path to take. 3. Sprinkle on the joy. I hate washing dishes, but if I do them while rocking out to my favorite 90s music, I know I’ll have fun!
  • Le'Kieah: To Rajan, my sweet son (pictured with me in the image to the right): be yourself and never stop growing, learning, and unlearning, acquire new skills and values, and remain loving. When times are tough, remember you are as well. Nothing is ever too big to accomplish. In any important decision, be in a calm state, listen to your gut then decide. Do or don’t, there is no try. 


About the Authors

Le'Kieah Williams

Le'Kieah Williams

Program: FEMBA '23
Position: Founder of Kirene & Associates
Le'Kieah's LinkedIn Profile

Daniela Wiskow Smith

Daniela Wiskow Smith

Program: FEMBA '22
Position: Customer Success Manager at Avery Dennison
Daniela's LinkedIn Profile

Victoria Shackelford

Victoria Shackelford

Program: FEMBA '23
Position: People Operations Manager at Revenue.io
Victoria's LinkedIn Profile