Lorden Co-Op Award Recipient is Proud Mom, Wife and Soon-To-Be Counselor

EKU Online Psychology Graduate Tonya Lunsford

“I get giddy when I look at my cap and gown,” EKU Online student Tonya Lunsford said in April as she prepared to graduate with her bachelor’s degree in psychology.

Tonya is the first-ever recipient of the Rosanne Lorden Award for Outstanding Co-Op Student in Psychology. The honor was created in memory of Dr. Lorden, an EKU professor and former co-op coordinator who passed away unexpectedly in February. She is remembered by colleagues as caring for students while challenging them to be their best. Co-op supervisors were asked to nominate deserving students for their high quality work, professionalism, and collaboration.

“I think that Tonya is one of the most conscientious and hardworking students that I have had the pleasure of teaching, and I have high expectations that she will be a top-notch future mental health professional,” said Dr. Theresa Botts, EKU professor and current co-op coordinator.     

Tonya completed her co-op at Parsons Counseling & Play Therapy Center, a facility near her home in Berea, Kentucky. She loved the experience. It gave her the opportunity to work with practicing clinicians and provided insight on how a practice runs. They were impressed with her, too. She was offered a part-time job while she attends graduate school.

For Tonya, it’s one more step toward achieving a lifelong dream of becoming a counselor.

She began her psychology degree at EKU when she was 21-years-old. Three of her father’s siblings had mental illness. He worked nights and cared for them during the day. She remembers feeding them and reading to them when she was a child. She wanted to help individuals and their families. After a few classes, however, she decided college wasn’t for her.

Over the next 20 years, she raised a son and owned her own business, but she still had that dream. Like so many women, she says she had days where she felt she had lost herself. “I love being a wife and a mother, but I needed something for me,” she explained. 

EKU Online provided a way for her to earn her bachelor’s degree, and her husband made sure she never gave up on her dream. Today, she tells anyone who asks to choose EKU. “Everyone I’ve talked with . . . the advisors and the instructors have been exceptional,” she said.

May was a month of milestones and emotional moments for the Lunsford family. Tonya went shopping with her 17-year-old son, Jacob, a few days before graduation. They bought a suit for his upcoming prom, instead of renting a tuxedo. When they returned home, there was a box on the porch that contained her cap and gown.

“That was an amazing moment,” she said. “I thought 'I DID this! It took determination and hard work. [It took] getting up early and staying up late, but I marched on and I’ll get my diploma.' That’s a wonderful, wonderful feeling.”

Jacob wore his new suit to watch his mother walk across the stage and accept her degree.


Tonya Lunsford EKU Online Psychology Graduate

Tonya and her husband at graduation. May 13, 2016.

Published on May 06, 2016