Tonya and Shayna Allen

Criminal Justice

Mother and daughter graduate from Bellarmine together

Great Grads 2021


When Shayna Allen decided to go to Bellarmine at age 16, she had no idea she’d be graduating with her mom.  

“I started working at Bellarmine to help with tuition and stuff like that,” said her mother, Tonya Allen. “And then I just decided, why not finish my MBA?”   

Tonya completed the course work for her Master of Business Administration degree in 2020, but commencement was postponed by COVID-19. When Shayna finished her bachelor’s degree in Medical Lab Science (MLS) this year, Tonya decided to walk with her, making it a special mother-daughter graduation. 

“That is the good part of the wonderful Bellarmine community—they really go above and beyond and make those personal connections and touches that mean a lot to people,” Tonya said.  

Tonya works the late shift in Bellarmine’s Office of Public Safety. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Louisville in Criminal Justice Administration with a minor in Forensic Anthropology. 

Shayna graduated from high school in Louisville at 16 and chose to continue her education at Bellarmine. “I always knew I wanted to do something in the medical field, but I don't really have the stomach to be a doctor,” she said. “I found Medical Lab Science, and I was like, ‘Well, that sounds perfect.’ Because it's the medical field without all of the gross things that doctors do.” 

“I definitely really liked the community and the feel of Bellarmine. Once you're there for a while, you kind of get to know everyone, and everyone's really nice." 

Shayna is considering graduate school, but not immediately. She has a student position at Norton Women’s and Children’s Hospital and is doing a clinical rotation at Baptist Health Louisville. Her degree allows her to be a generalist, so she can do almost anything in lab work, but she might one day focus on working in a blood bank, she said.  

While Shayna and Tonya didn’t often cross paths on campus because they had classes in different buildings, they sometimes walked together between classes. 

 “It was cool to be in the same place because we know a lot of the same people and have different events going on,” Tonya said. “That really allowed me to be a part of her education, but not be that helicopter mom. I still had my own stuff, but I was there with her.” 

Shayna said she liked the closeness that Bellarmine offered her. “I definitely really liked the community and the feel of Bellarmine. Once you're there for a while, you kind of get to know everyone, and everyone's really nice. When I first started, I kinda thought it was weird how nice people were. At bigger schools, you don't get people like that. And then all of our professors, since our class sizes aren't that big, they personally know you and you get a really individualized experience.” 

Tonya agreed. “You're definitely not a number, and that can be good and bad. If you are one of those that want to hide, this is not a place for you,” she said. “Because if you don't show up for class, your professor’s calling you out: ‘Hey, where were you? How do we get the information that you missed? Are you OK?’ I mean, it's really a very personal experience. This is not a party-crazy school. You gotta toe the line here, you know? They have expectations and standards, and they definitely keep them, but that's what is good.” 

Tags: Criminal Justice , MBA



Located in the historic Highlands neighborhood of Louisville, Kentucky, Bellarmine University is a vibrant community of educational excellence and ethical awareness that consistently ranks among the nation’s best colleges and universities. Our students pursue an education based in the liberal arts – and in the distinguished, inclusive Catholic tradition of educational excellence, the oldest and most rewarding in the western world. It is a lifelong education, worthy of the university’s namesake, Saint Robert Bellarmine, and of his invitation to each of us to learn and live In Veritatis Amore – in the love of all that is beautiful, true and good in life.