Mom and daughter will both receive master’s degrees from Mercer on Mother’s Day

mom and daughter smile at the camera while wearing black graduation robes and holding their diplomas
Michele Harvey, left, and her mom, Shelia Olander, are pictured after receiving their undergraduate degrees from Mercer in 2008. On May 12, they'll both become Double Bears when they each receive a Master of Accountancy degree. Photo courtesy Shelia Olander

On Mother’s Day, Shelia Olander and daughter Michele Harvey will both become Double Bears as they graduate from Mercer University’s School of Business. 

Olander and Harvey will each receive a Master of Accountancy degree during the 5:30 p.m. commencement ceremony at Gas South Arena in Duluth. 

“We made sure that we only took classes together,” Harvey said. 

Her mom chimed in, “I don’t think any of the professors knew, though, that we were mother-daughter.” 

The online format allowed Olander, of Hiawassee, and Harvey, of Dunwoody, the flexibility to pursue their degrees while working full time. The program also is offered on Mercer’s Atlanta campus. 

This isn’t the first time the mother and daughter earned a degree together. In 2008, they both graduated from Mercer with Bachelor of Business Administration degrees. 

Harvey already had earned an associate degree before she applied to Mercer for the first time. 

“At some point, Mom just decided that she was going to hop on the bandwagon too and come back to school with me,” she said. 

Olander said no one in her immediate family had a bachelor’s degree. Her boss at the time encouraged her to pursue higher education. 

“I thought it would be cool to get one, be the first in my line to get one,” she said. “So, I said, ‘Well, she’s going to school. … If she can do it, I can do it.” 

In 2022, Olander, a controller at Mission Critical Services, suggested she and her daughter return to Mercer to earn their master’s degrees as well. 

“She’s much younger than I am, and I thought it would help her in her career and possibly make more money as she gets older because, you know, she might have to take care of dear old mom here, so she’s going to have to have a lot of money,” Olander joked. 

Harvey said the knowledge she gained from her master’s degree will help her in her job as director of human resources in accounting at Temple Sinai. 

“We do full audits every year, and so with getting my master’s, especially in accountancy, being able to use that and think about it from the lens of what the auditors are looking for, … it has really helped with my point of view of what I do,” she said.  

Olander and Harvey supported each other throughout the program. They reminded each other to do their homework and helped each other with difficult class material. 

“I really enjoyed it,” Olander said. “I thought it was something great that I got to do with my daughter.” 

Harvey continued, “Mercer’s great. We wouldn’t have come back if it wasn’t.”


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Jennifer Falk
Jennifer Falk is director of digital communications at Mercer. She edits and writes feature stories for The Den and examines web data and analytics to drive content decisions. She also creates and supervises the creation of content for primary University web pages and e-newsletters.