Married with Degrees

Married with Degrees

WILMINGTON- Trying to balance busy careers, family life, and homework is never an easy task but husband and wife Rafael and Dina Sanabia of Leland have managed to do just that, while earning their degrees from the University of Mount Olive (UMO) at Wilmington.

Rafael and Dina have both worked in government related jobs for a good portion of their careers.  Rafael served in the US Army for 14 years and then tried his hand at various jobs including being a security officer.  Then shortly after 9/11, he joined the Transportation Security Administration, and then later the Social Security Administration (SSA) in Whiteville, NC where he has been employed for 13 years.  Dina was hired with the federal government in 1995 and moved to Wilmington, NC in 1999 to work with the SSA where she has been employed for 17 years as an Insurance Specialist.   Both have good jobs, but to advance any further, they both realized they needed the education to back their experience.

When the Sanabias were seeking a college to fulfill their educational needs their main objective was to find an accredited university that offers programs to accommodate their busy lifestyles.  They found both of those requirements at the University of Mount Olive.

Dina enrolled in the business management program at UMO in May of 2012.  Rafael followed her lead and enrolled in the criminal justice and criminology program in September of 2012.

Although the husband and wife team did not share any of the same classes, they did push one another to do their best.  Dina said, “We both had deadlines with homework, and we both helped each other with different studying techniques, which made it easier to move forward.”  Rafael agreed, “It was a great experience as we motivated and supported each other.”

Rafael completed his bachelor’s degree in May.  He has already seen the benefits from the fruits of his hard work.  Shortly after graduation, Rafael was promoted to Operations Supervisor within the SSA office.  “My college education has given me the necessary edge to advance in my career,” stated Rafael.

Dina is expected to receive her bachelor’s degree at UMO on August 27.  Her short-term goal is to become a manager within the SSA office.  “My long-term goal is to one day own my business,” she said.  “I want to be my own boss.”

The Sanabias plan to celebrate their dual graduations with family and friends.  They also hope that they have inspired their daughters Carolina (26), Giovanna (23), and Jaileen (19) to one day follow in their footsteps and seek their degrees.

“We are proof positive that it is never too late to pursue your dreams,” said Rafael.  “Seeking our degrees in our forties has set an example for our children and our peers, and it is enabling us to become better, more well-rounded professionals.”

The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Research Triangle Park, Washington, Jacksonville, and in Smithfield at Johnston Community College.  For more information, visit