A Balancing Act: Pursuing a Dream While Keeping Family First

The full-time pursuit of an advanced degree is hard enough. But imagine both adults in a family pursuing advanced degrees, while caring for a toddler and expecting baby number two. 

Sounds crazy, almost impossible, but that’s exactly what Rebecca and Beau DeSantis are doing. Rebecca is a P1 student in the UGA College of Pharmacy’s PharmD Class of 2025*. Meanwhile, across campus, Beau is in his first year at the UGA School of Law. 

Rebecca and Beau met online via AOL Instant Messenger when they were teenagers — long before online dating was popular. After high school, Beau joined the United States Air Force and was stationed in England as a jet engine mechanic. Back across the pond, Rebecca started a job at Hawthorne Drugs in Athens. While they remained in contact, they didn’t meet in person for almost two years. In the fall of 2003, Beau was visiting stateside and their friendship blossomed into a full-blown romance. Beau was eventually transferred to Texas, and after a year of a long-distance relationship, Rebecca moved to the Lone Star state to be with him.  

Another Air Force transfer landed the two in Idaho, which became pivotal for the couple, both professionally and personally. Beau worked in jet propulsion while earning his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration while Rebecca worked in a retail pharmacy for Walmart while starting her prerequisites for pharmacy school through Boise State’s satellite campus on the military base. Also while living in Idaho, Rebecca and Beau got married on April 16, 2006

Later, the newlyweds moved to California for Beau to continue his career in the Air Force as a flight engineer at Travis Air Force Base.  There, he moved up the ranks to become a flight instructor, then a flight evaluator for a squadron, and eventually, he became the evaluator for the entire base. Meanwhile, Rebecca worked full-time as a pharmacy tech. 

In October 2018, they welcomed their daughter, Audrey, to the family; don’t think a new DeSantis stopped Rebecca, whose boundless energy is contagious. After having Audrey, she returned to the workforce at a health care plant while simultaneously completing her prerequisite work for pharmacy school.  

Late this past spring, Beau retired from the Air Force, after 20 years of service, with one goal in mind: it was time for the DeSantis family to complete their professional education and pursue their career ambitions.  Rebecca has long been passionate about a pharmacy education, and Beau had aspirations for a law degree. At that point, there was only one question — where? How would the two find a university that would not only have both professional schools, but accept their applications simultaneously?  Would they possibly have to attend separate schools?  Would one have to delay their scholastic endeavors while the other attended college? 

The couple decided to use a shotgun approach to their application process, and they applied to anywhere that offered both professional programs and family nearby — Chicago, Georgia, Oregon, and Florida, to name a few.  The result?  They were accepted to every university they both applied to so they were then faced with deciding where to move their family.

“My family is in Athens, but Beau is originally from Silverton, Oregon, where he is a part of a big Italian family,” said Rebecca. “He told me we could come to Athens on two conditions. The first is that we make two trips to Oregon every year to see his family, one during the summer and one at Christmas. The second is that Audrey be allowed to wear Oregon gear during the UGA vs. Oregon football game. I told him that since she would be wearing UGA gear for the other games, that was fine,” Rebecca joked. 

So the family of three set off for the cross-country move, heading for the famed UGA Arch. However, at the beginning of  their journey, in Oregon, they found out that their family of three would be a family of four by Christmas.

“I think we were equally shocked and excited,” said Rebecca. “At that point, I could have deferred my education but I have been waiting 20 years for this opportunity. I want my pharmacy degree, and I am determined to get it.” She added, “I am so thankful for the strong support system we have here in Athens. While it is a lot to take on – being in school full-time, having a toddler, and expecting a baby – we are figuring it out together.”

When asked how the two are managing in their first semester, she explained, “We’ve always been very busy and involved wherever we were stationed, so we learned the importance of time management a while ago. And we are careful not to let our school and family time overlap. During the day, while Audrey is at the University Childcare Center, Beau and I focus on our school. We do our homework in between classes so that in the evening, we can be devoted to our family.”

Beau added, “We knew that this was going to be difficult to handle for both of us.  That’s why we discussed the hardships we anticipated early before we applied. That dialogue has continued and is a major part of how we are making progress.  We’re both working to accomplish something that we have wanted to do for a very long time, and being able to work together allows us to find a way to set each other up for success.”

Be on the lookout for May 2025, when this dynamic, determined, and spirited couple will pick up not one, but two sheepskins for their family!

*This impressive group of future pharmacists entered the PharmD program this fall with an average GPA of 3.35; 68 percent have previous pharmacy experience; and 22 percent are first generation students.  To view key demographics from the PharmD Class of 2025, see here