By Kayla Huynh
As a child, Emily Hanna says she “just knew” she would someday attend UW–Madison as many of her family members had. But today the senior BSN student is carrying on an even stronger tradition.
Following in the footsteps of her great-grandmother, grandmother, and aunt, Hanna is the fourth in her family to take part in 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.
“It’s amazing to walk around campus and think that my great-grandma or grandma was walking through these same halls of the Health Sciences Learning Center or that my aunt was in this hospital, too,” Hanna says.
Her clinical rotations have included time in University Hospital’s oncology unit, where her late grandmother, Judith Schuler-Weinhold ’64, was treated for lymphoma. And the coincidences don’t stop there. Hanna says her former roommate’s grandmother roomed with Schuler while they were in the nursing program together in the 1960s.
A lot has changed since Hanna’s great-grandmother Eleanor Schuler graduated with a nursing certificate in 1932. During one of Hanna’s clinicals, she toured a UW Health Med Flight helicopter. When Schuler attended, helicopters had not been invented yet.
In fact, the nursing program was introduced only eight years prior to Schuler’s graduation. The first students were admitted into the program in 1924, and the first class of 11 nurses graduated in 1927.
“With nursing, you get to meet so many different people and learn their stories. You can help to make the world a better place. You can create a lasting impact.” —Emily Hanna, ’19
According to Mary Hitchcock, a senior academic librarian in the Ebling Library, housing for students in the nursing program has also changed throughout the decades. Living in the nurses-only dormitory, located on University Avenue, was an integral part of the nursing school experience in the 1930s.
In return for students’ service, the university provided housing and meals, with the dorm serving as a social hub when the students weren’t studying. By the 1960s, enrollment outpaced available space and student nurses were allowed to live elsewhere both on and off campus, Hitchcock says.
Before the first nursing major was established in 1939, nurses studied in the College of Letters & Science in a variety of majors — the nursing program did not formally become the School of Nursing until 1959.
“To have four generations of one family attend the school in that timeframe is fairly remarkable, and it is a testament to the quality of our program and the experience of the university as a whole,” says Linda D. Scott, dean of the School of Nursing. “We are honored to be a part of Emily’s family tradition, and we are proud that she is now
a part of ours.”
The family’s generational ties to the health care field — outside of the UW — go back even further. Hanna’s mother and great-great-grandmother also studied nursing and her grandfather and great-grandfather graduated from the UW’s medical school.
Her aunt Lisa Wallen ’90 says passing on the Badger nursing cap to her niece is “extra special.” Hanna says she is proud to take on
“I love that I get to share this with all of them,” she says. “I want to make the same impact on the world as they have through nursing, and my goal is to keep my grandmother’s memory alive through my actions as a nurse.”
But while upholding her family’s health care tradition is important to her, Hanna says becoming a nurse means much more.
“With nursing, you get to meet so many different people and learn their stories,” Hanna says. “You can help to make the world a better place. You can create a lasting impact.”