Learning to Lead: Widener Degree Adds Value to ODL Student’s Eclectic Skillset

Naquawna Letman '22 '23 has a long resume with a wide variety of experiences. Now, she’s adding a prestigious scholarship and two degrees to it.

Naquawna Letman in her kitchen as executive chef
Naquawna Letman
Class of 2022 and Class of 2023
Adult & Professional Studies
Organizational Development & Leadership
  • Center for Graduate & Continuing Studies
Career Plan: Hospitality Professional & Community Leader

Naquawna Letman '22 '23 has a long resume with a wide variety of experiences. Now, she’s adding a prestigious scholarship and two degrees to it.

Enrolled in the accelerated 4+1 Organizational Development & Leadership program, Naquawna received her bachelor’s degree with the class of 2022 and is working toward completing her master’s degree in 2023. However, going back to school wasn’t always her plan.  

She found Widener at a career fair hosted by her employer, the Free Library of Philadelphia, as she was considering her next life steps. An executive chef at the library’s Culinary Literacy Center at the time, her plans to travel internationally had been derailed by the pandemic, wildfires and other factors. She learned about the 4+1 program and an educational partnership between Widener and the City of Philadelphia, which offered a substantial tuition discounts to city employees. The opportunity was affordable, and she knew it would add value to her resume.

“Looking at all of the different positions I’ve worked in, I realized having a leadership degree would allow me to do anything I want. I went to Widener because of the discount and the fact that I could complete my bachelor’s and master’s at the same time”

Today she continues to work at the library managing historical periodicals and doing display programming for visitors.

Mindset Mentorship

Being an adult learner balancing bachelor’s and master’s classes, work, and a personal life can be intimidating, and Naquawna found herself second guessing if she was capable of achieving her goals. But she found motivation through success, landing on the Dean’s List every semester since enrolling. Her confidence grew too, with support from faculty and staff, namely Sharmane Walker, graduate program director and Naquawna’s graduate academic advisor, and adjunct professor Charlene Brown.

“Sharmane invited me to join a mentorship program and it made me realize how strong I am,” Naquawna said. “And Charlene introduced me to transformative learning and ‘yes and’ thinking. ‘Yes, it is hard, yes, it is worth it, and yes, I can do it.”

Scholarship Success

Naquawna was chosen this spring to receive the Paradigm Scholarship for Working Women from the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia. This merit-based scholarship is given annually to women striving to complete their undergraduate degrees while working full time for a chamber-member company. 

“[The Paradigm Scholarship] is a very high prestige. I thought it was just a scholarship but then they told me that I am now an honorary member of the chamber of commerce and I have access to their network.”

Following Her Faith

Naquawna knows that – equipped with her degrees and her confidence – the possibilities for her future are endless. Now that she’s earned her bachelor’s degree, she’s assembling new goals to guide her life choices. She is drawing inspiration from hardships she’s overcome and her deeply rooted faith.

“I genuinely want to help heal the lives of African Americans in Philadelphia. Our history and culture are very deeply rooted not only in systematic racism, but in a lot of idiosyncrasies that are holding us back,” she said. “I just know that my degree is going to cover it all, wherever God takes me.”

Career Plan: Hospitality Professional & Community Leader

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