SONHS Celebrates Mother-Daughter Grads

Two decades after graduating from UM, alumna Paula Boling returned for another degree, inspiring her daughter to join her
SONHS Celebrates Mother-Daughter Grads

Over 20 years after earning her health science degree at the College of Arts & Sciences, Paula Boling, BHS ’00, returned to the University of Miami for a second degree. She had always planned to go into health care, she recounts, but then life happened. After a couple of decades spent raising a family and working in the legal field, Boling watched the pandemic transform the world of health care, compelling her to make her long-time dream a reality.

“Being a part of the U stands for the commitment of being a lifelong learner,” she said. But this time around Boling, age 46, was not alone when she in enrolled at the U. In January 2022, Boling began the accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program at the School of Nursing and Health Studies (SONHS) along with her 24-year-old daughter, Margarita Espinal.

“My mother is my best friend,” said Espinal. “I wanted to go to school with her, and I manifested it.”

On December 16, the mother-daughter duo graduated from the 12-month program together. Coincidentally, their ABSN class included yet another familial pair of graduates, sisters Mandee and Rachel Hahamoff.

SONHS interviewed Boling and Espinal on the day of their Fall ’22 Commencement ceremony to learn why these immediate family members decided to become nurses together and what their shared educational journey meant to them.


SONHS: What brought you back to UM so many years later, Paula?

Paula Boling: I attended UM in 1999 and graduated with a health science degree. I married a soldier and started a family. I postponed my dream of becoming a nurse. After the pandemic, so much changed for so many people that I knew I had to go back to school to help others and make a difference. I contacted a professor I had from 1999, Dr. Peter Luykx [emeritus biology faculty], who encouraged and believed in me. I am forever grateful to have had his guidance. My perspective on the school has only intensified my love for the U!


SONHS: Why did you want to study nursing with your mother, Margarita? 

Margarita Espinal: I’ve always wanted to study with my mom because she’s my best friend and I have seen her dedication with anything she undertakes. She’s a hard worker with a brilliant mind! 


What was it like to go to school with your daughter?

PB: Completing nursing school with my daughter was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I was blessed with experiencing. This was the hardest and most rewarding year of my life. The program is challenging, and together we were able to stay strong and encourage each other. What is amazing is that we became stronger alongside each other with the help from the best professors.


What does being a nurse mean to you?

Both: Being a nurse is not only the knowledge you use to care for others, but the compassion and love that you provide in caring for your patients. The nursing profession carries a huge responsibility to provide safe and appropriate care in order to help your patients be at their optimal health.


How was your experience in the ABSN program?

Both: The ABSN program at the University of Miami is one of a kind. The diverse culture, top-notch curriculum, and excellent professors build strong leaders for our world. We have been prepared to transform lives, bring forth change for a healthy and strong community, and provide the best health care to our patients.

PB: I was overwhelmed with pride and joy watching Margarita grow during our time here at the U. I am honored we were part of this ABSN cohort. It was truly remarkable to witness firsthand my daughter’s transformation in this program. To my daughter, you are unlimited, indeed!


Do you have other family members at UM?  

ME: No, but my younger sisters love to sport UM gear and hold up the “U” sign. I see future ’Canes in the making!