Life threw a curveball at Alixis Lind just as their college career began, but thanks to poise, good humor, and plenty of determination, they will proudly walk across William Paterson University’s 2023 Commencement stage with academic honors.
Lind, age 33, began their journey to a bachelor’s degree almost 15 years ago at community college. Shortly thereafter, a second, altogether unexpected journey began: Lind woke up one morning to find their hands weren’t working. They ended up being diagnosed with both psoriatic and rheumatoid arthritis, diseases wherein the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue.
Lind uses a cane to walk, and when their hip sometimes falls out of alignment, they rely on a walker instead. They are also hard of hearing.
They graduated with an associate’s degree in sociology and social work from Bergen Community College in 2014. Medical expenses associated with their care kept a bachelor’s degree out of reach until 2021, when Lind enrolled at William Paterson full-time. They majored in anthropology with minors in public health and social justice and have maintained a grade point average near 3.9.
“It was interesting learning how to get around campus,” Lind says with a laugh, citing the mountainous topography and the many resulting hills and stairs. “The Accessibility Resource Center (ARC) on campus has been fantastic in helping me get back to school,” Lind adds, explaining how ARC staff personally escorted them to Science Hall East to show them a way into the building that didn’t require walking up several flights of stairs.
Currently, Lind takes daily immunosuppressant medications, and every eight weeks, receives an infusion that “tanks” the immune system, they explain. It is unsafe for them to go anywhere for more than one week after due to the propensity for illness. Lind subsequently tries to take most of their WP classes online. They have battled COVID three times over, among other illnesses, and haven’t been able to take part in large family gatherings since the pandemic began.
Despite the challenges, the Mahwah, New Jersey native has excelled academically and is enthusiastically planning to work in public health, specifically on the cultural side of mental health. “I want to be able to interact with different types of people and help them,” Lind explains.
They have several years of experience doing just that as a volunteer EMT in the racially and economically diverse city of Englewood, NJ—a position Lind gave up after their own medical diagnoses.
“You have to know the community you’re working with … you have to make sure you’re coming at them in a way that allows them to meet you where you are,” they say.
And the William Paterson University community did just that for Lind. It is that community’s collective Will. Power., Lind says—“the access to support systems”—that’s contributed to their success as a student.
“It’s not directly me, myself; it’s when you can find the people that can help you.”
William Paterson University
300 Pompton Road
Wayne, New Jersey 07470