School of Nursing’s Proud Tradition Endures Despite Challenging Times
By Megan Hinners
The University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Nursing honored five graduates with nursing pins presented by the Nurses Alumni Organization (NAO) on May 6. Customarily presented at the annual NAO Graduation Celebration and Pinning Ceremony prior to commencement, this year’s commemoration was held through a virtual recognition of each recipient’s lasting contributions to the School of Nursing.
Jordan Langer, Alumni Relations Officer for the School of Nursing, emphasized the importance of continuing the pinning ceremony tradition despite the challenges of social distancing due to COVID-19. “Passing these pins on from a proud member of our Badger Nurse alumni to our graduating class is such a great example of how our network all comes together to help support one another,” Langer noted. “Now, more than ever, we need moments like this to help strengthen the connection between students and alumni to help keep the traditions of our school alive.”
Established in 1927, the NAO includes graduates from degree and certificate programs. It works closely with the UW–Madison School of Nursing to promote fellowship and recognition among school alumni, advance school programs, further high standards for nursing education and practice, and support students in various ways, including scholarships and awards.
The pin of the UW–Madison School of Nursing embodies a proud tradition of service. Each year select pins are passed on from a past graduate to a new graduate as a sign of the recipient’s achievement and promise.
This year, three graduates received pins donated by individual alumni, one received a pin from the Board of Visitors (BOV), and one received a pin from Dean Linda D. Scott PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FNAP, FAAN, marking the second year the Dean’s Pin has been presented to a graduate for their leadership and service to the school.
Of the five, two were graduates of the traditional bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program, two were graduates of the accelerated BSN program, and one earned their degree through the RN-to-BSN (BSN@Home) program. Two recipients are set to continue their academic studies with the School of Nursing this fall in the PhD and DNP programs.
Meet the Nurses Alumni Organization 2020 Pin Recipients
While earning her BSN through the school’s traditional route, Laura Block has cultivated an interest in geriatric population and public health and will continue her studies in the fall when she begins the PhD program at the UW–Madison School of Nursing.
“The hope is that access to programs that incorporate the nursing perspective on assessing needs and building on people’s strengths will help people maintain and build cognitive resilience.” —Laura Block ’20
“I am deeply honored and humbled to receive this pin, which not only symbolizes nursing leadership and service but also provides a meaningful connection to its donor, 1957 alumna Nancy Seegers Schaper,” says Block. “I hope to continue in the strong tradition of nurses before me, including Nancy Seegers Schaper, who have touched so many lives over the years. Graduating in the year of 2020—the Year of the Nurse—amidst a global pandemic that highlights both the role of the nurse and the vulnerability of our health care system and communities also holds incredible meaning. In the spirit of this pin, I look forward to contributing to this incredible profession, working across multiple generations of nurses to come alongside communities, and promoting health and equity.”
Seegers Schaper Cert ’57, ’57, graduated from the UW–Madison School of Nursing and taught nursing subjects at Milwaukee Deaconess Hospital before leaving the nursing profession to raise five daughters. Several years later, Seegers Schaper returned to nursing, holding positions in Massachusetts and at Caldwell County Hospital in Princeton, Kentucky. At Caldwell, she served as house supervisor, infection control specialist, and director of nursing. She eventually founded the Caldwell County Home Health Agency with service to three counties before retiring and volunteering in the hospital surgery department.
Known by her peers as one who exemplifies hard work and academic dedication through her advocacy and research for older adults, Block is also described as humble, kind, and approachable, with many peers noting that she is quick to reach out to offer help or mentorship at any time of day.
Block’s compassion for others extends beyond her peers and profession. Not only has Block helped School of Nursing faculty organize food and housing resources for older adult communities experiencing increased insecurity due to COVID-19, but she also spends her free time talking with isolated nursing home residents through virtual social visits. Along with volunteering at MEDiC, a student-led free clinic housed in the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
As a second-degree student, Block has helped fund her nursing education by working full time in Dr. Andrea Gilmore-Bykovskyi’s lab focusing on bettering the lives of those with Alzheimer’s and dementia-related diseases as well as their caregivers.
Block was awarded the 2019-2020 Wisconsin Idea Undergraduate Fellowship for her honors project, “Healthy Brain Aging Resources for Clinical Programs Serving Cognitively Vulnerable Populations.” This project, which investigates the intersection between dementia and serious mental illness, has received praise from community partners and School of Nursing faculty alike.
“The hope is that access to programs that incorporate the nursing perspective on assessing needs and building on people’s strengths will help people maintain and build cognitive resilience,” says Block.
“The participants have been grateful for the social interaction and cognitive exercises and have commented that they appreciate UW–Madison nursing students are interested in helping them. There is so much interest in this project that School of Nursing faculty recently expanded upon the idea and proposed to take it statewide! I am working to share this work at several symposia.”
Through her research, Block has partnered with local community organizations, the Aging and Disability Resource Center, and Madison School and Community Recreation in order to develop brain health promotion programming. Block’s work was highlighted on the UW–Madison Center for Aging Research and Education’s website in December of 2019.
Block’s research and guidance is also used by the Center for Pre-Health Advising. Her efforts to create curriculum on the ethics of global health and travel have helped many student organizations plan trips that better respect local cultures, promoting awareness of power dynamics and the potential unintended harms of short-term medical missions.
A graduate of the School of Nursing Honors Program, Block earned Distinctive Scholastic Achievement and was the recipient of the Signe Skott Cooper Writing Award.
Hannah Bonneville earned her BSN through the school’s accelerated program and graduated with Distinctive Scholastic Achievement. A member of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing, Bonneville was presented the BOV pin.
The School of Nursing’s Board of Visitors is a group of leaders from the health care and business communities who provide strategic guidance to the school. The pin donated by the organization recognizes a student’s leadership and strategic guidance.
No stranger to hard work, Bonneville has spent any spare moment available donating her time as a leader for the good of others. On top of her rigorous academic schedule, she dedicated her time to organizations and associations like Girls Empowered, Hope Connection, Veterans Stand Down, the MEDiC free clinics, Ronald McDonald House, Adamah Clay Studio, and Slow Food Madison. Bonneville is also an executive financial officer for Leadership Organization for Accelerated Nursing Students (LOANS) and is a Potters for Peace ambassador.
“Hannah is an amazing student that strives to do her best in everything she does,” says Darby Sugar, director of advising and student services at the School of Nursing. “She has a 4.0 GPA in her accelerated BSN degree, works hard to really comprehend the material, and consistently looks for additional, more in-depth or advanced information. She also graduated with honors in Sociology as her first undergraduate degree, was a member of the Alpha Kappa Delta Sociology Honors Society, and is currently a member of the Sigma International Honor Society for Nursing.”
The Dean’s Pin, added in 2019, was awarded to Emily Hanna, a traditional BSN student who has made a lasting impact on the school through her leadership, compassion, and desire to help others.
“It is an honor to be graduating in 2020, the Year of the Nurse, knowing I am being recognized with the same pin that was given to my great-grandmother in ’32, my grandmother in ’64, and my aunt in ’90 during their graduation pinning ceremonies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.” —Emily Hanna ’20
As a child, Emily Hanna says she “just knew” she would someday attend UW–Madison. Following in the footsteps of her great-grandmother, grandmother, and aunt, Hanna is the fourth in her family to take part in the UW’s nursing program. The generations of women in her family who studied nursing before her served as inspiration and motivation for her to pursue the same path.
“I am sincerely humbled to be this year’s NAO recipient of the Dean’s Pin,” Hanna says. “It is an honor to be graduating in 2020, the Year of the Nurse, knowing I am being recognized with the same pin that was given to my great-grandmother in ’32, my grandmother in ’64, and my aunt in ’90 during their graduation pinning ceremonies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.”
Selected as a member of the discontinued Freshman Direct Admission pilot program for the School of Nursing, Hanna pushed herself to continuously learn and grow both in and out of the classroom. Despite facing numerous obstacles, including challenges with personal health and the loss of fellow direct admit students in her cohort, Hanna continued to work hard to excel and achieve her goals.
Throughout her academic journey at the School of Nursing, she constantly looked for new ways to immerse herself in the school, and her hard work is evident in her many achievements, including graduating with Distinctive Scholastic Achievement. Classmates mentioned that Hanna was always committed to learning despite juggling demanding classes and many extracurricular activities, often using her free time to research topics not covered in classroom discussions to help further devote herself to the profession.
Noted by her peers as someone who goes above and beyond to help others, Hanna’s passion and commitment towards health care led her to volunteer for the American Red Cross and Badger Volunteers. As a student ambassador for the School of Nursing, Hanna often worked with middle and high school students interested in pursuing a career in health care. Hanna’s guidance on college life and nursing school provided prospective students with a deeper look at what it means to be a nurse, while offering encouragement and inspiration to help instill a passion for health care and the nursing profession in others.
On top of all her academic and extracurricular work for the School of Nursing, Hanna was also a dedicated employee at University Hospital, committing herself to help in any way possible, including as a student nursing assistant on the transplant unit. When she learned of COVID-19 pandemic challenges affecting the hospital, Hanna extended her contract with the hospital in order to offer additional help to better serve the Madison community. She will continue to provide the same passion, dedication, and commitment to the nursing profession in her new role as a Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU) nurse at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri.
Sirirothnak Seng immigrated to the United States from Cambodia at the age of 14 and has had to navigate the educational system as a first-generation college student. But her perseverance and strong work ethic have helped her find success every step of the way.
“As a nursing pin recipient, I am motivated and eager to work toward making health care more accessible and equitable for those who are unfamiliar with the system. I am also excited to uphold the legacy of the nurses who have come before me.” —Sirirothnak Seng ’20
“I am honored to have been nominated and awarded a nursing pin from the Nurses Alumni Organization,” says Seng. “As an immigrant and a first-generation college student, navigating the U.S. health care and education systems was challenging for me and my family. However, my journey to pursue higher education and gain access to health care was made easier by receiving guidance from amazing mentors and health care professionals. As a nursing pin recipient, I am motivated and eager to work toward making health care more accessible and equitable for those who are unfamiliar with the system. I am also excited to uphold the legacy of the nurses who have come before me.”
A member of this year’s accelerated BSN cohort, Seng came to the School of Nursing by way of earning her Bachelor of Arts in Integrative Biology from University of California, Berkeley. Seng was recently inducted into Sigma Theta Tau for finishing within the top 35% of her class and graduated with Distinctive Scholastic Achievement.
During her time at the School of Nursing, Seng volunteered for MEDiC, where she assisted with patient intake, co-facilitated reproductive health workshops, and collaborated with physicians to diagnose and create health plans for patients. Seng also volunteered to host nursing students from Japan, helping to foster cultural competency that she has integrated into her professional ideas.
Clinical instructor Liz Collins, MSN, RN, CNE, notes that Seng’s extensive work providing culturally competent care in a variety of settings is a testament to her character. “Perhaps one of the most exceptional attributes of this first-generation college student is her ability to connect with others where they are, whether it is her peers, patients, family members, or clinical instructors. Her positive, enthusiastic demeanor brings a collegial environment to those working with her. I anticipate that Rothnak will forge a new path for those nursing students and nurses interested in cultural competence in diverse communities, and no doubt, she will be a nurse that the UW–Madison School of Nursing can be proud to claim as an alumna.”
While studying at U.C. Berkeley, Seng co-founded the Berkeley Cambodian Student Association and advocated for her Cambodian patients by creating a nutrition diagram in Cambodian, featuring native dishes and measuring systems to better help her clients. Seng also collaborated with a tobacco education program to conduct an observational study about smoking habits in the Long Beach area. Further, her work on a research project investigating a Californian soda tax helped create a pilot diabetes education program for Cambodian patients in Oakland, California.
The work Seng dove into while earning her first degree sparked her interest in community health and outpatient care, and allowed her to collaborate with a multidisciplinary team to create and facilitate influential programs that positively impacted community health. “This experience challenged me to find an innovative teaching approach that incorporates culturally congruent care,” says Seng. “This project inspired me to continue pursuing a career in nursing because I enjoy working closely with patients and want to create a positive impact on the health of people in my community.”
Seng’s pin was donated by Mary Huseth Black Cert ’57, ’70. After receiving her certificate from UW–Madison in 1957, Black joined her husband who was a pilot in the U.S. Air Force. She returned to UW–Madison to complete her bachelor’s degree in 1970, and eventually earned a master’s degree in administrative leadership and adult education in 1976 from UW–Milwaukee. Black’s long career in nursing has led her to stints in Texas, the Panama Canal region, and several communities in Wisconsin. She has worked as a medical/surgical nurse, a public health nurse, and a school nurse. On top of that, she spent several years in nursing administration, including 15 years at the Milwaukee County Medical Complex.
When addressing Seng about her pin, Black said, “I have enjoyed every position I have held, and do credit the University of Wisconsin School of Nursing with providing me an excellent education. I was proud to wear this pin, and I hope you, too, wear it with pride.”
Dallas Prockl earned his BSN through the school’s BSN@Home program, balancing academics with work at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison where he is running TeamSTEPPS sessions, using evidence-based teamwork tools to optimize patient outcomes by improving communication and teamwork skills among health care professionals. Prockl is also involved with the unit-based council and hospital-wide charge nurse council to develop safe, more efficient ways of providing care. Prockl is not done with his academic career just yet, as he will continue his studies at the UW–Madison School of Nursing in the fall when he officially enters the Doctor of Nursing Practice program.
“The university creates exemplary nurses that strive to lead and to be of service to others. To be recognized by alumni that have cultivated these characteristics into their daily lives is incredibly humbling.” —Dallas Prockl ’20
“Dallas is a great student that is always willing to go the extra mile,” says Kelli Richards, BSN@Home coordinator for the School of Nursing. “He is very organized and diligent with his studies, and has done all of this while working 90% at St. Mary’s Hospital.”
Known for his resilience and desire to make an impact, Prockl’s journey to graduating from the School of Nursing was influenced by the untimely death of a close friend whose experiences instilled in him a drive to help others. The former physics major decided he wanted to make a larger impact on the world and changed the course of his career, which ultimately led to obtaining his associate degree in nursing from Madison College, and later to continue his studies at the School of Nursing through the BSN@Home program.
Prockl received a pin from Cheryl Donkle ’74, whose lifelong passion to become a nurse led her to attend Methodist Hospital School of Nursing before attending UW–Madison School of Nursing. Upon graduation from the school, she worked in pediatrics at the University of Colorado Hospital before returning to Methodist Hospital in Madison as an operating room nurse preceptor. Once the Methodist Hospital School of Nursing closed, she joined the nursing staff education department at Methodist—which was later renamed Meriter Hospital—where she held a position until retirement.
Donkle donated her pin because she wanted to give it to a graduating student who would be proud to wear it in recognition of all that they have accomplished. When asked what her advice would be for new graduates, Donkle said, “Be proud of your chosen profession, never stop learning, and enjoy your experiences.”
When asked what it meant to be chosen as one of this year’s NAO pin recipients, Prockl said, “The university creates exemplary nurses that strive to lead and to be of service to others. To be recognized by alumni that have cultivated these characteristics into their daily lives is incredibly humbling. This pin represents our collective past, present, and future desire to uphold the proud tradition of nursing; and to continually move Forward.”