Debbie Ellzey is graduating this fall at 52 years old. After a long career, she decided to further her education and ended up making a unique degree switch not long into her academic career.

“I went to nursing school because I was a single mom at 17, I had previously been a candy-striper volunteer at Presbyterian Hospital and I wanted to make a good life for my son,” said Ellzey.

After being a practicing nurse for 29 years, she decided to return to UNM to continue her education and pursue a nursing degree – feeling that she could offer more to her patients and family. But she soon discovered that she was denying her true passion.

“I enrolled as a nursing major and one of my required courses was an art course. I took small scale metals mainly because most of the other classes were full when I registered but I loved it! I started taking more art classes while I finished my core classes and rekindled my love of art,” said Ellzey.

Before long, she’d switched her major to Art Studio. Her favorite type of art to create is painting and sculpting with clay. In the future, Ellzey plans on continuing her education by attending Southwestern College for her master’s degree in Art Therapy.

Ellzey says she didn’t have to worry about feeling out of place at UNM as an older student.

“I love the diversity at UNM. My professors and classmates are all so accepting and make me feel at home,” said Ellzey. “I am realizing my dream and will graduate finally at 52 years old. I would like to pass on to everyone; You are never too old to learn or to realize your dreams. Never give up!”

She encourages those who are thinking about returning to school to go for it.

“... time is passing, and it will pass with accomplishment and progress in school. Make your dreams come true and never look back and wonder what if,” said Ellzey.

Ellzey offers one more piece of advice for students unsure about their current majors: “Follow your heart and your dreams you will make yourself and so many others around you happy.”