These newlyweds could say they met online. Or they could say they met in college. Both would be true, but not quite the whole picture!
Chris and Dayna Lund both graduated from Baylor in December of 2021 as part of Cohort Two in the School of Education’s EdD in Learning and Organizational Change (EDD-LOC), an online program. They met in January of 2019 during their first online class, taught by Dr. Jessica Meehan.
“The professors encouraged us to reach out to other students and to ‘find your people’ to help you through the program,” Chris said. “They said you’ll need that kind of camaraderie, because it’s going to get challenging.”
But professors never expected this kind of camaraderie. Dr. Meehan said, “I knew our program was going to impact lives. I never expected that it would impact lives outside of education and career trajectories.”
When Chris and Dayna began that first course, somehow Chris missed the first private chat message via Zoom that Dayna sent (complimenting his bookshelves as outdoing Dr. Meehan’s), so she wasn’t sure what to think. But before long, he’d sent her a chat message — offering to rally the class to pitch in and buy her a chair, because she was always sitting on the floor. (Dayna was a first-grade teacher, so quite comfortable on the floor!) As they found themselves often in Zoom break-out rooms together, they learned more about each other’s lives.
“I think I fell in love with him before I even knew I liked him,” Dayna said, “and certainly before I met him in person.” She admitted she “pinned’ him a lot during Zoom class!
Chris and Dayna’s chat sessions moved from in-class messages to social media platforms and text messages. Undertaking anything that resembled dating was difficult, since Chris lived in Utah and Dayna in Florida. Before long, they arranged to meet in person at an educational conference pertinent to both their careers; Chris at the time was working at Western Governors University in academic program management for online degree programs. Soon they began flying cross the country to visit each other.
They tried to be discreet and “professional” about their relationship in class, they said, but classmates probably suspected Chris and Dayna were sometimes logging on from the same location. They were in different rooms, trying to only unmute when speaking, so the voice from the other room didn’t carry. But then a cat would walk through Dayna’s room; a moment later a cat walked through Chris’s room. And it was the same cat.
By the fall of 2019, when their Baylor cohort met on campus in Waco for their first “immersion” experience — a long weekend when students collaborate, meet with professors, and begin sharing research behind their dissertation ideas — Chris and Dayna were pretty sure everyone had figured it out. After all, they were spotted sitting together on a campus swing — an undeniable sign of Baylor-sparked romance.
Meehan said that when she became Dayna’s faculty advisor for her problem-of-practice dissertation, she noticed a change in Dayna. “She seemed brighter and happier,” Meehan said. “I wasn’t sure what had changed, but it brought me joy to see her happy.” Eventually she learned why, and she was thrilled that Chris and Dayna “found each other.”
Finding Dayna actually helped him finish his degree, Chris said. When the coursework became challenging, her teacherly encouragement pulled him through.
Both Chris and Dayna were familiar with online education when they began researching doctoral programs. Dayna earned an MA online in educational psychology in 2016 from the University of Alabama; her BS in psychology was from the University of Montevallo in 2001. Chris earned an MBA online from the University of Phoenix and completed several professional certificates online; his 2002 bachelor’s was from Weber State in organizational psychology and health care administration.
Both were looking for a university with an outstanding reputation for their online doctorate. Baylor fit the bill, but the difference with their previous online experiences was a big surprise — and in a good way.
“When you look on the website to see your professors, they are the heads of the department,” Dayna said. “Then you’re in their class, and when you walk on campus, they know you by name. That doesn’t happen in other online programs. This program makes you part of the Baylor family.” Professors have even invited her to participate in research projects with them, she said.
Chris said his previous online learning experiences were purely individual efforts. “There were a bunch of people, but I couldn’t tell you one of their names,” he said. At Baylor, he said, students get the best of both worlds — flexibility of an online program but with the benefits of building relationships with peers and actual networking. He said working through the program with a specific cohort provided constant encouragement; when he was tempted to take a semester off, he persevered so he could graduate with the cohort — and with Dayna.
Even in the face of a pandemic and the academic rigor of the EdD coursework and dissertation, Chris had another time-consuming hobby — planning a proposal so elaborate that you’d think he needed a semester off to do it! Chris wrote and illustrated an original book to ask Dayna to marry him. Called “The Grumpy Goose,” the book chronicled the life and fun times of the titular goose and his inspiration, a lovely purple unicorn. Illustrations showed all of the places the two had visited together, including the Baylor campus. The book also included a chorus of sheep; for his proposal, Chris organized 20 of his and Dayna’s family members — with all of them dressed in sheep costumes. It was Halloween of 2020, but a bit elaborate even for Halloween. He brought Dayna a unicorn costume, and of course Chris was the goose. Unicorn Dayna read the book aloud to the crowd, and the Grumpy Goose became happy instead.
“Over time, I’m more and more blown away at how much effort and thought and care and coordination — and money — it took, because he bought everyone in our family those costumes,” Dayna said.
“If you ever need 20 sheep costumes, let me know,” Chris added.
The wedding was on the beach in the summer of 2021, and then Chris relocated to Florida. Both graduates have found new career opportunities. Dayna started a company named Lunderful Learning to offer specialized learning and academic coaching to students from kindergarten through graduate school and also for teachers, parents, or schools. Chris accepted a new position as Director of Analytics at Gen4 Dental Partners, a position that only opened up because of his doctoral degree.
Every month, the couple travels to Utah for a week, so the flexibility has been helpful as they manage a blended household that includes five children ranging in age from 12 to 23.
Both have experienced career growth because of the EdD, and in the future they might move to another location — someplace with both beaches and mountains — because they are confident their skills are valued and transferrable.
Their only regret is that the pandemic prevented them from having a really huge party for their wedding. They would have loved to invite their Baylor classmates and are sure they would have enjoyed the reception — on a pirate ship! And yes, there were costumes.
Even without a wedding invite, their Baylor colleagues and professors are happy for them.
“A lot of people question if you can really build a community in an online program,” Meehan said. “Dayna and Chris have demonstrated that indeed our students feel connected and that both professional and personal relationships can be built in an online platform. Not only did they meet in the program, but they supported each other through it. In a matter of three years, they met, got married, and both earned their EdD in Learning and Organizational Change.”
And then . . . they lived happily ever after.
Baylor’s School of Education celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2019. With more than 60 full-time faculty members, the school’s growing research portfolio complements its long-standing commitment to excellence in teaching and student mentoring. The school boasts a variety of academic program options across its three departments: Curriculum and Instruction, Educational Leadership, and Educational Psychology. Baylor’s award-winning undergraduate program in teacher education serves approximately 400 students and has earned national distinction for innovative partnerships with local schools that provide future teachers with extensive clinical preparation.
More than 700 graduate students pursue advanced study and professional preparation in master’s, Ed.S., Ed.D., and Ph.D. programs. With multiple faculty searches underway and exciting new academic initiatives both at home and abroad, the school is in a period of significant expansion and is poised for greater impact through the production of meaningful, high-quality research and the preparation of outstanding leaders, teachers, and clinicians. Visit www.baylor.edu/SOE to learn more.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.