Being married with two kids couldn’t stop Pamela Nelson from returning to school to study nursing full time.
Nelson, who was named Wright State’s 2016 Presidential Scholar, is a nontraditional student who has been out of college for 10 years and is now pursuing her second undergraduate degree. She graduated with her first undergraduate degree, a B.S. in psychology, in 2004.
“College is harder with a family,” Nelson said. “And I thought it was hard when it was just me I had to take care of. It’s a lot, but I have a better perspective on it, and I care more about it then I did the first time. It’s my money this time, my time and my family who is making the sacrifice. I just really appreciate being here.”
Nelson, a senior nursing major, was surprised to learn she was nominated for the Presidential Scholarship.
“It was kind of a big honor to be chosen,” she said. “I was surprised enough to be one of the final students, and I kept waiting for my letter, that ‘no letter,’ and it never came. … I thought surely they didn’t know how old I was when they nominated me. I’m not the typical student who gets it.”
The 35-year-old inherited her work ethic after being raised by a single mother, a paralegal.
“One of the biggest things about coming back is how I will impact my children,” Nelson said. “They’re 10 and 11, and having them go through this with me will help them prepare for their future, and it’s a good learning opportunity for them to see a parent making sacrifices for education.”
The Beavercreek High School graduate first came to Wright State without an idea of what to major in. But after taking a few psychology courses and learning how the brain works, she became interested in the field of psychology. She eventually married one of her psychology lab partners and had worked as a full-time mother until returning to school a few years ago.
Nelson had never considered a career in nursing until after the births of her children and being comforted by nurses after her grandmother died.
“It just felt like they were always there so I thought, ‘I want to do that,’” she said. “My life was positively impacted by nurses. The field is wide open and in need of new employees, and it’s one of the most versatile professions that exist.”
After her oldest child started school, Nelson returned to school herself.
“It’s scary to come back as an older adult,” she said. “Having known this campus and having a good experience the first time around really had a big deal in coming back.”
Each year, the Presidential Scholarship recognizes one outstanding Wright State student with a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.8. Each college nominates one student to the university president, who makes the final selection.
Nelson has accepted a position as a labor and delivery nurse at Miami Valley Hospital. She also interested in pursuing a master’s degree so she could instruct nursing students in the field of labor and delivery nursing.
“I could see myself returning,” she said. “There’s a lot of higher education in nursing and I do tend to get antsy. I just want to use my brain a little bit more. The instructors on our clinical side are really important, so that may happen eventually.”
Her advice to undergraduate students is to “be confident, don’t try to be perfect and ask for help when you need it. For nontraditional students, I say go for it. It’s super scary to return to school or begin for the first time as a ‘different’ student.’ Take the plunge and you will see how wonderful it is. You would be surprised at how many other students are like you and how accommodating the university is.”