Finding Leadership on Our Paths to Nursing

By Danielle Harris x’23 and MJ Joseph x’23

Photography by Kristen Koenig

Danielle Harris and MJ Joseph

The School of Nursing’s mission is to develop leaders for the nursing profession and society. One of the ways the School cultivates leaders is by providing opportunities for students to develop and enhance their leadership skills through various student organizations, jobs, and research opportunities. We, Danielle and MJ, are both second-year students in the traditional bachelor of science in nursing program and expect to graduate in May. We are current student ambassadors and are involved in several other student leadership roles. We’re excited to share our personal experiences as student leaders with you!

Meet Danielle

Danielle Harris
Danielle Harris

Ever since high school, I have loved to get involved in school activities and organizations to collaborate with other students and the communities that shared similar interests and passions as mine. During my freshman year at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, I knew I wanted to find a community of nursing students that I could open up to and share my passion, goals, and fears with, so I joined the Multicultural Student Nursing Organization (MSNO). In this organization, I was able to learn from upper-level nursing students about their pre-nursing experiences and get advice for my own application. They encouraged me to not fixate on making myself “appear more competitive,” and instead find ways to get involved, network, and grow. This meant remaining true to my passion for the nursing profession, which is working to bring equitable care to the health care field, and helping to dismantle the discriminatory practices in health care that affect underserved populations and identities.  

Once I was accepted into the School of Nursing, I began to see even greater meaning in my leadership role in MSNO: I was now the mentor for so many members of the organization and other pre-nursing students on and off campus. I then took the initiative to become a student ambassador so that I could use my knowledge and advice to assist prospective students as well as continue my love for collaborating with current students, faculty, staff, and alumni to better the nursing profession and community all around the world. Being a student ambassador for the School of Nursing has been a wonderful experience. I have taken part in opportunities of meeting and speaking with prospective students about the nursing program and its application process, providing tours of the building, discussing the typical day in the life of a nursing student, and sharing my own unique journey as a pre-nursing student. I have also been able to collaborate and connect with School of Nursing faculty and staff on projects that range from improving student experiences to connecting with alumni who are currently working in the nursing profession and who are retirees! But one of the most truly gratifying experiences I have working as a student ambassador is being given the opportunity to work in collaboration on projects with the entire student ambassador team, and forming amazing and warmhearted bonds with each student and staff member. 

These past three years of being a Badger nursing student have allowed me to gain knowledge about how to follow my passions in nursing, take part in community engagement, and mentor prospective Badger nurses. Going into the workforce, I am even more confident in my ability to make an impact in the health care field as a nurse coming from a background with the enriching experiences that UW–Madison School of Nursing has provided me. 

Meet MJ

MJ Joseph
MJ Joseph

As a senior in high school, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in health care and that I wanted to attend a university far away from home. I ended up only doing one of those things! The University of Wisconsin–Madison is only about an hour and half from my hometown of Kenosha, Wisconsin — much closer than I had anticipated. I’ve learned that I didn’t actually want to be far from home, I just wanted the ability to discover myself and grow as an individual. Coming from a small school to a big university would most likely have been more intimidating if not for all the amazing resources that UW–Madison has to offer; anything from tutoring services to intramural sports is within a short bus ride. I have to say, though, what really attracted me to UW–Madison was the School of Nursing. 

While the School of Nursing does not have a direct admit program and is competitive, I could not help but feel at home when I entered the doors of Signe Skott Cooper Hall for the first time my senior year of high school. After touring several schools with direct admit programs, I remember thinking to myself, “Why UW–Madison?” I had to look no further than the culture of the School of Nursing; the staff and faculty encourage students to push themselves and to be the best versions of themselves. To those who work for the School of Nursing, students are not just a name on a roster but rather unique individuals who will one day be the future of health care. 

After receiving my acceptance to nursing school, I found myself then saying, “Well, now what?” I had been accepted and was about to start the second half of my college education. I had already been involved with several student organizations, but I wanted to be more involved with the School of Nursing specifically. Then I saw an email that had the job listing for student ambassadors. Being a student of color at a predominately white university made me realize that if I wanted to see change, I would have to be a part of it. I decided to apply for the student ambassador position so that I could advocate for those who felt like their voices were going unheard. Not only do I interact with students from all walks of life, but it is a part of my job to work with the faculty and staff as well. 

The School of Nursing constantly highlights the need for nursing leaders. Through my position as a student ambassador, as well as a board member of Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) and the Student Nurses Association (SNA), I have felt the ability to lead and grow every day. As a student ambassador, I have given tours to potential students and their families, and have had to learn how to communicate with everyone — talking to people is my favorite part of my job! Not only do I give tours to prospective students, but I also walk them through why the UW–Madison School of Nursing might be the best school for them. These communication skills and the ability to work with people from different backgrounds has prepared me well for my future career as a Badger nurse. 

The question I am asked most often is, “What does an average day look like for you?” The short answer is BUSY. I have had to learn how to manage my time, which I believe has prepared me to be the best future nurse I can be. Serving on the board for two (amazing) student organizations and as a student ambassador can be stressful. However, UW–Madison has fully equipped me to be the best student leader I can be. The amazing faculty and staff at the School of Nursing are constantly encouraging me to be the best version of myself. It is only with their support that I feel able to be a strong leader, thus it is my pleasure to represent UW–Madison’s School of Nursing.