Nurses Alumni Organization Honors Nine Pin Recipients in Class of 2021

Graduates Recognized for their Leadership, Service, and Achievement

By Megan Hinners

School of Nursing pin
About the School of Nursing Pin – The School of Nursing pin symbolizes a proud tradition of service, expressed through each of its parts. Given annually, the pin signifies both achievement and promise. Designed in 1926 by Helen Denne Schulte, the school’s first director, the pin consists of the university’s seal on a maroon cross with a caduceus. The cross pattée dates from the Middle Ages when it was worn by the Knights Hospitaller, a nursing order. Its wings represent a bird covering its young, symbolizing protection and nursing. A caduceus, two snakes winding around a staff, symbolizes medicine.

The University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Nursing is proud to honor nine graduates with nursing pins, presented by the Nurses Alumni Organization (NAO). Customarily presented at the annual NAO Graduation Celebration and Pinning Ceremony prior to commencement, this year’s commemoration was held through a virtual celebration on April 28.

Jordan Langer, alumni relations officer for the School of Nursing, notes the significance of the pinning ceremony, explaining, “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’s honorees are an exceptional group, and we are excited to see them become leaders in the profession and society.”

Established in 1927, the NAO includes graduates from degree and certificate programs. It works closely with the 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.

This year, seven graduates received pins donated by individual alumni. In addition, 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 third year the Dean’s Pin has been presented to a graduate for their leadership and service to the school.

Of the nine total recipients, seven are graduating from the traditional bachelor of science in nursing (TBSN) program, one is graduating from the accelerated bachelor of science in nursing (ABSN) program, and one is earning their degree through the RN-to-BSN (BSN@Home) program.

Meet the NAO 2021 Pin Recipients

Noor BontzNoor Bontz

For Joan Bachhuber ’75, being able to pass her pin on to a graduate at this year’s pinning ceremony holds special significance as she pinned her daughter, Noor Bontz, a member of the 2021 BSN@Home class.

Bachhuber graduated from the School of Nursing and went to work in the University Hospital burn unit, noting that it was a challenging way to begin her career. She then transitioned to medical-surgical, medical, medical intensive care, and neonatal intensive care before returning to medical-surgical nursing for the final chapter of her career. Bachhuber looks back fondly on her time at the School of Nursing, highlighting special memories from her clinical placement at University Hospital and noting the kindness of her clinical instructor.

Her advice to 2021 graduates is simple, “Continue to expand your knowledge base, and enjoy the unique privilege of providing top-notch nursing care.”

For Bontz, the opportunity to receive her mother’s pin is extremely special. “My mom has been my rock and advocate through my health issues, through becoming a nurse, and through nursing in a pandemic,” she says. “She and my father, who graduated from the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, taught me through example what it looks like to care for people no one else will help. Receiving her pin is an honor and carries the family tradition of providing dignity and excellent care to all the individuals we serve.”

Having grown up in a medical family, Bontz admits that she was not inclined to follow in anyone’s footsteps. Instead, she gravitated to nursing through her own experiences. “I became ill with uncommon neurological diseases at age nine and have experienced the incredibly frustrating patient-side of health care for over two decades,” she says. “I became an esthetician to support myself, and really took interest in the scientific side of that field. After much encouragement, I started nursing school and found my fit as a critical care nurse, with a specific focus in making critical care concepts digestible for vulnerable populations.”

While earning her degree, Bontz has been a primary preceptor throughout the pandemic, and has been working at a medical respiratory intensive care unit (MRICU) at a health resources and services administration (HRSA) site. “My hospital population has very low health literacy,” Bontz explains. “I’ve worked extremely hard to make their health care accessible and am now a trauma-informed care unit champion.”

Her journey to earning her bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) has been made even more arduous as she’s battled numerous rare health issues, working full time, all while trying to raise a family and help her children with virtual learning throughout the pandemic. Despite the many challenges, Bontz has been a Dean’s List student and has proven that she is ready for any challenge that comes her way. “Finishing my [bachelor’s degree in nursing] is the next milestone in my nursing career,” she says, adding that she is looking to delve into nursing education in the future.

Michaela Ginter-Powers

Michaela Ginter-PowersBorn and raised in Wisconsin, Michaela Ginter-Powers is looking forward to beginning her nursing career close to home. “I’m excited to stay here when I start working,” explains Ginter-Powers. “I chose the nursing profession with my final desire in mind — to work with and serve kids. After my clinical on P4 at University Hospital, I fell in love with working with the hematology and oncology pediatric patient population. I’m excited to start a career in pediatrics after graduation!”

Ginter-Powers received her pin from Edna Johnson Luckow ’52, who grew up on a small family farm in central Wisconsin. Johnson Luckow, who passed away in June of 2020, was encouraged by her teachers and parents to further her education after graduating high school, and she understood that a career in nursing would challenge her academically and allow her to combine her interest in life science with her desire to educate and care for those who were ill or injured.

Throughout her career, Johnson Luckow’s focus was on caring for patients in the medical-surgical practice, where she was able to apply her multi-tasking and critical thinking skills to care for and educate her patients. Her daughters, Carla and Barbara, noted that her joy in her line of work was evidenced by the positive attitude she maintained, as well as by her wonderful smile as she talked about her day.

As a proud graduate of the UW–Madison School of Nursing, Johnson Luckow felt the pin represented the hard work and dedication it takes to complete the program. She wanted to donate her pin to recognize another deserving nurse as they complete their rigorous studies and begin their career.

A Dean’s List student throughout her undergraduate journey, Ginter-Powers is no stranger to hard work. Her service to others extended beyond her academic endeavors, as well, as she was an active volunteer in her church community before COVID-19 halted gatherings. Ginter-Powers was involved as a youth leader at Faith Community Church for over eight years, teaching Sunday school and leading a middle school youth group on Wednesday evenings.

Through it all, Ginter-Powers has made every moment count and is grateful for her UW–Madison experience and the special bond between students and alumni. “Being a part of a tradition that started in 1996 is such an honor,” she says. “One of the things I’ve appreciated so much about the UW–Madison School of Nursing family is how strong the connection is between alumni and current students!”

Katie KalvelageKatie Kalvelage

When Katie Kalvelage was a junior in high school, she was able to see firsthand how nurses treated a family member who had been diagnosed with cancer. “I knew then that I wanted to be a nurse,” she says. “I wanted the chance to give back and care for others in the same way.”

Kalvelage is graduating after going through the traditional bachelor of science in nursing  program, and will be looking to obtain a nursing position at a hospital near her hometown where she can learn as much as she can. She hopes to one day work towards a nurse practitioner degree.

Her volunteer experience is nothing short of extensive. She has served on numerous committees within the School of Nursing, donating her time to better serve her fellow students. In addition, she has been a student ambassador for the School, going above and beyond her job duties on more than one occasion. Further, Kalvelage has served on the Associated Students of Madison since 2017, the student governance body for UW–Madison, acting as an advocate for her fellow students and legislating for prioritizing health and wellness within UW–Madison and the surrounding community.

Kalvelage received her pin donated by Ruth Drye ’66, whose journey in the nursing profession began the summer before her senior year of high school. An interest in the profession prompted her to inquire about a position at the Monroe Clinic in Monroe, Wisconsin, which led her to work as a clinic assistant for a urologist, who mentored Drye and guided her to pursue a career in nursing.

Drye’s career is nothing short of amazing, beginning in 1966 where she was part of University Hospital’s “experimental clinic unit” with Emeritus Professor Emily B. Campbell, who she credits as having a lasting impact on her career through her leadership, mentoring, and insight. Drye chose to donate her pin to honor Campbell’s pioneering work in expanding the role of nursing and developing a master’s degree program for geriatric nurse practitioners.

When asked what advice she has for the graduates, Drye said, “Remember that what you do and how you present yourself each day makes a difference. Every interaction that you have with your patients and their families, and with your co-workers will have an impact on them in some way. Make it a positive one.”

Drye’s wish was to donate her pin to a student who is interested in geriatrics and has strong leadership qualities. Known as a hardworking student and dedicated public servant, Kalvelage is a leader who is well respected by her peers, professors, and staff within the School of Nursing. A consistent member of the Dean’s List throughout her academic career, her passion for the school and the nursing profession has not gone unnoticed.

“Receiving this nursing pin is an immense honor,” says Kalvelage. “I know that I have big shoes to fill as far as joining this strong legacy of Badger nurses, but I’m so touched and humbled to have been welcomed [into this network] through this pin.”

Mariah Larson

Mariah LarsonA member of the traditional bachelor of science in nursing Class of 2021, Mariah Larson is all about building relationships. “When I first came to UW–Madison, I had declared a biology major and had big plans to attend medical school and practice as a physician someday,” admits Larson. “After digging a little bit deeper into health care and reflecting on my interests, I realized that I wanted a career where I could build relationships with others and work closely with them to make an impact. This switch introduced me to the nursing field and brought me to where I stand now.”

Through her studies and clinical experiences, she has found a passion for working pediatric populations, and aspires to work in a children’s hospital upon graduation. Later in her career, Larson hopes to utilize her nursing degree to practice as a global health nurse and is considering furthering her education by obtaining a master’s or doctor of nursing practice degree.

Larson’s ambition has been fundamental to her success throughout her academic career at the School of Nursing. “Mariah took the lead on our team for studying communication hearable as ‘patient shaming’,” says Kristen Pecanac ’09, MS’12, PhD’16, RN, assistant professor at the School of Nursing. “She is passionate about publishing and disseminating our findings to improve how clinicians communicate with parents about their behaviors to benefit the child’s health, but also avoid invoking shame.”

A six-time Dean’s List student, Larson was one of 10 students accepted into the highly selective study abroad program, UW Health, Education & Tanzanian Culture. In addition, she is a student researcher in the Stanic Lab of Reproductive Sciences, where she co-authored a publication. Adding to her academic successes, Larson has certificates in Gender and Women’s Studies, as well as Global Health.

Pecanac also notes that Larson’s drive and determination extend beyond her academic efforts, noting that she volunteers in the community, all while working two jobs. “She serves as a ‘big sister’ through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County once a week, and has two leadership positions with UW–Madison Cardiac on Campus, which raises awareness about cardiac health in younger populations,” Pecanac adds. “She is working toward raising money to place AEDs in campus buildings, along with providing basic life support classes.”

Larson recognizes the significance of being selected as a pin recipient, saying, “Receiving this nursing pin validates the hard work and perseverance it has taken me to get where I am. I’m honored to join other UW–Madison nursing alumni and celebrate all our accomplishments together!”

Larson’s pin was donated by Nancy Oldenburg ’74. Oldenburg notes that, while she has always had an interest in a career in health care, she initially wanted to pursue a career in physical therapy. However, after working as a nursing assistant in high school, she realized the nursing profession was a much better fit.

Oldenburg’s passion is in pediatric nursing, and she has spent the majority of her career in that area. “I worked as a staff nurse in pediatrics and pediatric critical care,” she says. “Eventually, I earned a master’s degree in nursing, and a post-master’s pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP) certificate. I spent several rewarding years as a PNP in pediatric critical care.”

She notes that one of her favorite memories of attending the UW–Madison School of Nursing was during the second semester of her medical-surgical nursing rotation. “I suddenly grasped what nursing was really about,” Oldenburg says. “It was truly an ‘a-ha’ moment that made the remainder of the program more meaningful.

Later in her career, Oldenburg saw the value in working with nursing students, adding, “I worked with nursing students in the clinical setting throughout my career; and in the early 2000’s, I took a faculty position in the School of Nursing at Northern Illinois University.”

When asked what advice Oldenburg would give to graduates, she says, “First, I encourage them to be open to new opportunities, such as volunteering or accepting a new position. One’s passion in nursing might not be what was expected at graduation. The possibilities in nursing are endless! Second, I encourage them to remember the nurses who encouraged and supported them as students and as novice nurses, and to pay it forward by providing that same support and encouragement for students and new nurses in their own clinical settings.”

Eric SchilerEric Schiller

Sally (Martalock) Wangsness ’63, chose nursing because it was a perfect fit. “A career where you can enhance interpersonal communication skills, be authentic and dependable, effect change, and honor genuine goals regarding the service rendered to those that are ill was a natural fit for me,” she explains.

She credits those aspects as being rudders guiding her throughout her 40 years as a registered nurse, which has included working as a surgical nurse at the National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa, head nurse of the medical-surgical unit at Mary Greeley Hospital in Ames, Iowa, and working in State College, Pennsylvania, in both private duty nursing and pediatrics.

Wangsness invested in herself by continuing her education, earning her master’s degree in adult health and aging in 1977, her master’s degree in health administration in 1987, and her doctorate in community systems planning and development in 1991, all from Penn State University.

She donated her pin to help carry on a legacy. “[My pin] has great significance and value to me,” she explains. “With no one in my immediate family who would appreciate it, I would like to see it worn once again by a student from my alma mater.”

Her pin will be worn with pride by Eric Schiller, whose journey has helped him truly value the significance of being honored as a Nurses’ Alumni Organization (NAO) pin recipient. “It is a unique privilege and honor to be part of this longstanding tradition,” he says. “Being an NAO pin recipient highlights the quality of the individuals that have helped me grow into a Badger nurse. I am humbled to be recognized by alumni that have come before me, and look forward to carrying our shared love of nursing to future generations of health care providers.”

Despite some recent personal challenges on top of working through a pandemic over the last year, Schiller has remained dedicated to his academics, his job, his patients, and his career. However, he credits his professional and academic experiences with helping guide him through it all. “Throughout my professional life, I have been fortunate enough to work with clinicians that put the highest value on patient care and patient outcomes,” he says. “These values were further highlighted in my nursing curriculum in the [accelerated bachelor of science in nursing] program, and I look forward to modeling them throughout my nursing career.”

Schiller works at the UW Carbone Cancer Center (UWCCC), where he supports patients enrolled in clinical trials for gastrointestinal cancers. “Having a lifelong interest in health care and an interest in medical innovation, working in the Carbone Cancer Center has been the greatest introduction to the workforce that I could have imagined,” he says. “Having spent the last four-plus years working alongside cancer patients, medical oncologists, fellow researchers, and clinic staff has illustrated the value that quality education, advocacy, and commitment can add to patient care.”

Schiller has brought innovative thinking to his current role at the UWCCC. “I directed a project focusing on improved inventory management to better meet the needs of our patients and staff, as well as reduce waste from clinical research staff,” he explains. “The project has taken over two years to implement, and was presented to the entirety of the UWCCC staff.”

On top of balancing his full-time career and academic endeavors, he also spends around 20 hours per week volunteering through the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater La Crosse as a basketball coach; he also volunteers for the yearly UW Carbone Cancer Center’s “Bowlin’ for Colons” fundraiser.

Balancing the rigors of working a full-time job, maintaining high marks in his academics, as well as volunteering his time in the community, Schiller has been nominated for the Ginsberg Family Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Leadership, Service, and Scholarship, which recognizes students who have made outstanding leadership and service contributions to the university and/or the surrounding communities while maintaining a record of academic excellence. A prestigious award on campus, only 25 are awarded each year.

Schiller is looking forward to taking the next steps in his nursing career. “I am excited to continue to expand on my patient care role as I continue my career through University Hospital’s nurse residency program,” he says. “Beyond expanding on my capacity to care for patients, I am also looking forward to bringing my drive for innovation and quality improvement, creative problem-solving skills, and love of collaboration to the hospital floor.”

Kayla Siok

Kayla SiokBritta Lothary, clinical instructor II at the School of Nursing, notes that Kayla Siok has faced some tremendous challenges over the last year. “Kayla has seen a side of the pandemic that is unimaginable by losing her best friend,” says Lothary. “Alongside grief, Kayla continued her studies and worked as a nursing assistant in the trauma and life support center (TLC), advocating for the sickest patients. Her strength and continued passion for patients is tangible.”

For Siok, the loss has been difficult, but she has found that through all of the grief and hardship, she is finding ways to gain strength through nursing. “I’ve fallen many times and hadn’t known that I’d be able to get back up,” she admits. “However, this experience has opened my eyes to the great impact nurses can have in patients’ lives, and I aspire to improve suicide protocols in hospitals in honor of my friend.”

Siok has already started to make an impact, speaking to clubs throughout campus on mental health and suicide awareness. “I promoted ways to look out for everyone and how to support individuals who are suicidal in order to get them the appropriate resources,” she adds.

The traditional bachelor of science in nursing graduate chose nursing because because of the emotional connections that can be built. “Nurses have the ability to allow people to feel loved, cared for, understood, and not alone. It allows me the power to change the standard of care and advocate for those without voices,” Siok explains. “Additionally, it enables me to serve people in all facets of life and to spread kindness and love in places and to people that often need it most.”

Despite the many hurdles she has had to face, including a busy work schedule as a nursing assistant in an intensive care unit, a mentor for freshmen with mental health concerns, and a volunteer working with adapted fitness clients to help them achieve their fitness goals during the pandemic, Siok has maintained a perfect 4.0 average throughout her School of Nursing journey.

Siok received her pin from Jeanne (Culter) Appelbaum ’76, who felt inspired to donate her pin after reading a recent article in ForwardNursing magazine. She has high regard for the level of education she received at the School of Nursing, saying “I value my education from UW–Madison. It gave me the solid foundation to do best in my nursing career.” She will pass along her pin to Siok, whose exemplary academic efforts have also set a solid foundation for her new career.

Appelbaum explains how she chose nursing, saying, “I feel my pursuit of a nursing career evolved from being in a medical family, with a mom trained in nursing and an otolaryngologist dad. They worked together for years. My sisters and I all worked in his office in Evanston, Illinois through high school. Common sense [and] an ability to relate, communicate, and help people of all ages and walks of life, came naturally to me. I never felt it was control over people’s lives; it was genuine caring during their personal times of ill health and complex illness problems.”

Appelbaum has fond memories of her time at UW–Madison, noting that she looks back warmly on her time as a blood drawer during nursing school at University Hospital. “This allowed enhanced patient contact and I was able to acquire skills and dependability,” she explains. “I enjoyed the small classes, especially the physical exam course.”

Upon leaving Wisconsin, Appelbaum went back to Illinois and passed the RN board. From there, she worked at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and University of Chicago before heading out west in 1977. “My professional goal was to work on the kidney transplant unit at UC San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center,” she adds. “This interest was cultivated from University Hospital’s kidney transplant program where I was a student nurse on rotation. After securing and working in that unit, I was invited to work in UCSF’s acute hemodialysis unit. I subsequently left there to work in the East San Francisco Bay area as an acute hemodialysis RN in various locales. Then, I returned to UCSF to work once again in the acute hemodialysis/apheresis unit. After learning complex procedures throughout my time there, including stem cell collection and plasmapheresis on patients of all ages (the youngest patient I dialyzed was seven days old!), I wrapped up my career. I still retain an active RN license in California, though!”

For Siok, a successful and storied career like Appelbaum’s is the goal. After graduation, she plans to attend University of Iowa’s nurse residency program as an emergency room nurse. “I hope to use my degree to improve suicide protocols in emergency care,” she says. Long-term goals for Siok include returning to school to become a nurse practitioner.

She is humbled by being chosen as a pin recipient, saying, “It is an incredible honor to receive a nursing pin donated by an alumna. It allows me to maintain a connection to the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Nursing and all of the incredible alumni that have come before me.”

Sara Thao

Sara ThaoThe Dean’s Pin, added in 2019, was awarded to Sara Thao, a traditional bachelor of science in nursing student who has made a lasting impact on the school through her leadership, compassion, and desire to help others. “I cannot think of anyone more deserving than Sara to receive a nursing pin,” says Maichou Lor ’11, MS’12, PhD’17, RN, assistant professor at the School of Nursing. “She exemplifies the Wisconsin Idea, has a passion for reducing health disparities for racial and ethnic minority populations, and is a leader. She is a bright young woman, who stands out from her nursing peers.”

Thao’s passion for health care began as a child when she witnessed the discrepancies between Hmong healing practices and Western medicine practices. “It inspired me to become a bridge between cultural and language barriers for my community in health care,” she explains.

After being diagnosed with a bleeding disorder as a teenager, Thao was especially cognizant of the care she received. “I had a team of nurses and specialists who provided quality care through patience and thorough teaching,” Thao says. “Their phenomenal care solidified my desire to enter the career field of nursing. They paved the way for me to want to make a positive impact in patients’ lives, while being able to implement and integrate my passion of helping my community.”

Thao received a prestigious scholarship from the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Precollege Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence (PEOPLE). The PEOPLE program selects outstanding students in their 6th-grade year and partners with students to help them reach their goals of college attainment and degree completion. “Sara has dedicated a decade of her life to this program and is closer to achieving her dream of becoming a pediatric nurse,” Lor adds.

The honors student recently received a highly competitive research award, the 2020-2021 Wisconsin Hilldale Undergraduate/Faculty Research Fellowship, which helped her complete her honors research project. “Her research project explores the attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, and barriers to hearing loss and care among Hmong individuals with hearing loss and caregivers,” says Lor. “This project is innovative because it is the first study ever to be focused on the Hmong adult population with hearing loss. We published this work in the Western Journal of Nursing Research, where Sara was the second author. Additionally, her research has been selected to be presented at the 2021 UW–Madison Undergraduate Research Symposium.”

In addition to her academics, Thao has been actively involved with the community and beyond as a volunteer. She volunteered with the UW–Madison non-profit student organization, Vietnam Health Project, which is dedicated to fighting poverty in Vietnam through fundraising, volunteering, and annual trips to the country. Thao dedicated three years to the organization, spending at least 30 hours a week for three weeks in Vietnam to provide health education such as dental hygiene and sexually transmitted infections/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) prevention while implementing sustainable projects within orphanages, elderly homes, schools, and rural areas. Locally, Thao mentored incoming freshmen who were also part of the PEOPLE program, providing guidance and helping them adjust to the university environment.

After graduation, Thao has plans to practice for a few years before returning to graduate school and potentially pursuing a specialty in pediatrics.

Thao understands the significance of being chosen as the 2021 Dean’s Pin recipient. “I am humbled and ecstatic to be the recipient of the Dean’s Pin,” she says. “My journey to nursing school was definitely challenging as a first-generation Hmong American college student. I would not be here without my parents, who have fought relentlessly to support me in my nursing career. This pin symbolizes the nurses who have come before me, the nurses who are in the making, and the future nurses to come. I am honored to receive this pin and am proud to represent the Hmong community. With this pin, I strive, and am dedicated, to work on increasing health equity and culturally sensitive care within the health care system. I look forward to being a part of, and to contribute to, an incredible profession.”

Bryce Trimberger

Bryce TrimbergerBryce Trimberger, a member of the traditional bachelor of science in nursing Class of 2021, admits that nursing was not always his first choice for a career, but personal experiences helped point him towards the profession. “As a Type I diabetic, I had frequent interactions with health care from an early age; interactions that often felt like they were prescriptive rather than collaborative in meeting my needs and considering the person behind the diagnosis,” he explains. “For this reason, I have been drawn to nursing in order to form interpersonal relationships with patients that allow me to help them feel seen, and to form care plans with them rather than dictating it for them. I have set out with the mission to become the nurse I once wished I could have had; a nurse who practices with compassion, innovation, and a commitment to learning about the unique identities and experiences patients bring to their care.”

Madelyne Greene, PhD, RN, assistant professor at the School of Nursing, notes that Trimberger has been an exceptional student, all while juggling outside responsibilities. “Bryce has been extremely academically successful while managing to work as a House Fellow in Sellery Hall,” she says. “He has completed the honors program, going above and beyond in the research project.”

Noted for his ability to navigate difficult conversations with poise and professionalism, Trimberger has been an integral member of Greene’s research team, demonstrating passion and dedication to the health of the LGBTQ+ community in Dane County. “Bryce consistently goes above and beyond to consider the experience and needs of the members of our advisory group and how to maximize the impact of our research,” Greene adds.

Trimberger’s post-graduation plans are already solidified. “I plan to practice on a progressive care unit at Atrium Health in Concord, North Carolina,” he says. “This opportunity will allow me to develop my professional identity, hone my nursing skills, and pursue opportunities in nursing leadership that will be vital to my growth as a health care professional.”

In the future, he hopes to one day earn his doctor of nursing practice degree to practice as a nurse practitioner, saying, “I aim to specialize in endocrinology and LGBTQ+ health care to serve as a beacon for patients who often feel unseen, unappreciated, or misunderstood. I hope to accomplish this goal through collaborative, interpersonal, stigma-free care that is vital in providing safe and affirming care for LGBTQ+ patients across the lifespan.”

His pin was donated by Susan Curtis ’86, who is excited to see the pin be of service, once again.

Curtis, who chose nursing so she could support herself and be of service to others, is retired after many years of dedication to others. Beginning as a student nurse-nursing assistant on the school age pediatric unit at University Hospital, she continued as a registered nurse there from 1987-1989. After that, Curtis dedicated herself to a position as a school nurse for the Madison Metropolitan School District, retiring after 22 years.

Curtis notes that a career in nursing is a blank slate. “You can choose your path with a [bachelor’s degree in nursing],” she says. “It’s a vital, versatile career that can take you anywhere. You can make a difference in people’s lives every single day.”

As Trimberger’s degree takes him to North Carolina, he will work every day to make a positive impact in the lives of his patients. He is especially grateful for being recognized as a pin recipient. “Receiving this pin from the UW–Madison Nurses Alumni Organization represents the hard work and dedication I have put into developing and crafting my own nursing practice,” he concludes. “It is an honor to exemplify the excellence, commitment, and passion consistent with the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Nursing, as well as the legacy of nurses who have received this pin in the past and went on to achieve success, fulfillment, and greatness in their professional roles as nurses. I will forever be grateful for this opportunity. Thank you!”

Kayla Van Boxtel

Kayla Van BoxtelThe School of Nursing’s Board of Visitors (BOV) 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, and this year’s recipient of the BOV pin is an outstanding example of both.

Noted by her peers as being an exemplary person who genuinely cares for her classmates and goes above and beyond to help anyone in need, Kayla Van Boxtel has been chosen as the 2021 BOV pin recipient for many reasons.

A student ambassador for the School of Nursing since September of 2019, Van Boxtel has embraced the role and she is always ready and willing to share her experiences with prospective nursing students, assist with strategic communications efforts, or collaborate with various groups and organizations throughout the School of Nursing. Her strong initiative and drive have allowed her to be a prominent member of the Student Nurses’ Association, where she served as president.

Langer also mentions that Van Boxtel was effective in her role as the student representative for the three bachelor of science in nursing tracks on the BOV, serving a one-year term. “She provided insights to the advisory group on what her classmates were experiencing during an abnormal year of nursing education,” Langer explains.

As a valued member of the School of Nursing, peers describe her as positive, conscientious, and kind. Classmate Katie Kalvelage emphasizes that her classmate, and friend, has truly made her mark on the school, explaining a recent project that Van Boxtel spearheaded. “She coordinated an opportunity for students and alumni to participate in mock interviews over Zoom,” Kalvelage explains. “She displayed tremendous creativity and adaptability throughout her work on this, and it was a genuinely positive and helpful experience for both the students and the alumni who volunteered to interview. Coordinating the amount of people she did was no small feat, and it’s even more impressive because it really was an impactful project for many. During the pandemic, many opportunities that are available for nursing students’ professional development were not options this past year. I really admire Kayla’s ability to problem solve and create a helpful initiative for the sake of her peers’ professional development as future nurses.”

The honors student has been actively involved in research throughout her academic career at UW–Madison, and her peers note that she values the role of research in advancing medicine, nursing, and the overall experience of patients all over the world. In addition, she has been a community resource navigator for the last three years. “[Being a community resource navigator] has inspired me to practice holistic care and consider how the social determinants of health impact patients’ overall well-being,” she adds.

Originally a genetics major when she first arrived on UW–Madison’s campus, Van Boxtel soon realized that nursing was her passion and changed her major. After a challenging journey, she is graduating with degrees in nursing as well as community and nonprofit leadership, and earning a certificate in global health. Van Boxtel has truly built a solid foundation from which to build her career. “I hope to work as a float nurse after graduation before pursuing a master’s degree in public health and a doctorate in family nursing practice,” she adds.

As a leader who has been active on the BOV, Van Boxtel is honored for the recognition. “I am extremely grateful to receive this pin from the Board of Visitors,” she says. “Pinning is a beautiful tradition in the nursing profession, and it is such an honor to become the next Badger nursing student to be recognized by an exemplary group of nurses. Thank you!”