Becoming A Nurse The Pioneer Way

By Melinda (Ablard ’90) Smith
Aug. 4, 2014
Vanessa Shulte icon

Vanessa Schulte is a true pioneer.

Not only is the Baldwin City resident from a pioneering family—she is a first-generation American whose parents are from Laos—but also she is the first in her family to complete a bachelor’s degree.

So when Schulte decided to return to college for a nursing degree it was fitting that she would choose the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in nursing (ABSN) program at MidAmerica Nazarene University, home of the Pioneers.

“I believe nurses embody MNU’s mission, the mission to have a ‘pioneering spirit’ by encompassing the drive and passion to move forward through any obstacles we face,” Schulte says. “Nurses live purposefully because they are providing care for those who are sick, in pain or even fighting for their very lives.”

Schulte learned early to embrace that pioneering spirit. Her youth was challenging at times because of what she calls her “culturally and ethnically different” upbringing.

But what Schulte once saw as an obstacle she now views as an advantage as she prepares to enter the nursing field.

“Others did not understand my cultural differences or even why my father and mother were difficult to understand at times,” she says. “I believe that being ethnically different than others allows me to see past a person’s physical appearance and behaviors and delve into their real problems and connect personally with them.”

Schulte’s pioneering spirit also has helped her garner a one-time $10,000 scholarship from MNU’s School of Nursing and Health Science through a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: New Careers in Nursing (RWJF NCIN) program. The MNU scholarship is awarded to select applicants who are from a population underrepresented in the nursing field, traditionally men and minorities, or who have significant financial need.  It is specifically designated for the ABSN program, which offers students the opportunity to earn a nursing degree in one year.

Although Schulte earlier earned a biology degree from Baker University, she opted to stay home with her then 2-month-old daughter after graduation. When she did enter the job market a few months later and was unable to find work in her field, she took an office job at a car dealership.

But Schulte’s husband, Brett, knew her heart wasn’t in office work. So he encouraged her to go back to school to pursue something more fulfilling. That something was healthcare.

Growing up, Schulte had accompanied her father, who was not proficient in English, to all his doctor’s appointments and had acted as his translator. However, it was her late grandfather who really inspired her to take the path she is now walking.

“My grandfather’s passing from gastric and colon cancer really sparked my urge to care for those who have cancer,” she says of her decision to become an oncology nurse.

When Schulte finishes her training at MNU, she wants not only to work with cancer patients but also to incorporate the latest technology and holistic practices into her nursing.

And she wants to share that pioneering spirit with others.

“I believe that nursing is the most humble of all careers,” Schulte says. “It is a calling by God to follow His way and champion individuals in need. To me, that life means going the distance to touch just one life for the better when they are unable to do so for themselves.”  

MidAmerica Nazarene University has received the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: New Careers in Nursing (RWJF NCIN) grant the past six years and uses the money to fund Accelerated Bachelor of Science in nursing scholarships. Over the years, the school has awarded 45 NCIN scholarships. The goal of the RWJF grant is to help alleviate the nursing shortage, to diversify the workplace and to bolster faculty and leadership.