Outstanding Students Honored by School, Peers

By Caitlin Clark

School of Nursing Graduation Awards recipients
2019 School of Nursing pin awards recipients with Dean Linda D. Scott (center back row), clockwise from Dean Scott: Alex Dudek, Pa Ying Vang, Aniqueka Jamie Scott, Guisella Medrano,  and Grace Stewart  at the Nurses Alumni Organization (NAO) Graduation Celebration and Pinning Ceremony

The University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Nursing honored five graduates with nursing pin awards during the Nurses Alumni Organization (NAO) Graduation Celebration and Pinning Ceremony on April 30. A once universal practice to recognize all graduating students, UW–Madison’s pinning ceremony has evolved into a distinct honor for a select group of students nominated and selected by their peers.

Three students 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. As a result of a growing graduating class, the Dean’s pin is a new addition this year and recognizes leadership and service to the school.

Alex Dudek, one of this year’s pin recipients, appreciates the alumni connection that the pins symbolize. “It means a lot to have alumni leaders recognize the hard work we’re putting in as students to improve our education and health systems,” she says.

Alumni Relations Officer Marlee Promisel says students value the opportunity to recognize their peers and alumni enjoy the opportunity to do something meaningful for each class. “Passing these pins on is a wonderful example of how alumni and students can connect with each other to keep the traditions of our school alive,” Promisel says.

Meet the Nurses Alumni Organization 2019 Pin Recipients

Alex Dudek received the BOV pin to recognize her leadership. Dudek was inspired to pursue a career in nursing while working as an EMT. During her undergraduate career, Dudek conducted HIV research as part of the Nursing Honors Program and has been an advocate for LGBTQ+ students’ rights. After graduation, Dudek will work at UW Health on the trauma and surgical intermediate care unit while pursuing a master’s degree in public health in order to improve LGBTQ+ population health and emergency healthcare.

A returning adult student, Guisella Medrano is an immigrant originally from Peru. She has led efforts to make the nursing school more inclusive through her work as a member of the Multicultural Student Nurses Organization (MSNO) and by co-founding Enfermeras Sin Barreras, an organization of students who teach medical Spanish to nursing peers.

Medrano received a pin donated by the family of Betty Putzi ’58. Putzi worked in a variety of nursing roles before finding her calling as a hospice and home care nurse at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Maryland. A compassionate caregiver and zealous patient advocate, Putzi passed away on August 30, 2018. In her memory, Putzi’s family also established the “Betty Sikora Putzi Scholarship in Nursing” to support Dr. Kris Kwekkeboom’s research in the area of palliative care, symptom science, and innovative ways to care for patients at the end of life.

“I am sincerely humbled to be a Nurses Alumni Organization pin recipient and to be a part of this 92-year-old tradition. It is a privilege to be in the first UW–Madison accelerated BSN cohort, and this pin signifies what we all strive to be—extraordinary nurses.” —Aniqueka Jamie Scott.

Aniqueka Jamie Scott is a member of the first accelerated BSN cohort and received the first Dean’s pin. She volunteered on the planning committee for the school’s annual Nursing Workforce Diversity Conference and helped update student recruitment materials. She also participated in advocacy efforts, including Nurses Day at the Capitol. After graduation, Scott hopes to pursue advanced practice nursing education.

“I am sincerely humbled to be an NAO pin recipient and to be a part of this 92-year-old tradition. It is a privilege to be in the first UW–Madison accelerated BSN cohort, and this pin signifies what we all strive to be—extraordinary nurses,” Scott says.

Nursing Alumni Organization Pin
Each year, select pins are passed on from a past graduate to a new graduate as a sign of the recipient’s achievement and future promise.

Nursing wasn’t Grace Stewart’s first career choice. She originally came to UW–Madison to study political science and work for social change, but she realized she wanted a more personal relationship with those she helps. She was accepted into the traditional BSN program on her second attempt, and will begin her career in the neonatal intensive care unit at American Family Children’s Hospital after graduation.

Nancy Stone Davis ’63 donated Stewart’s pin. Davis began her career working in the newborn nursery on the labor and delivery unit at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison. She later earned a master’s in health education and went to work at New Futures High School, an alternative school for pregnant and parenting teens. She used her experience in labor and delivery to educate and care for students and their children.

Pa Ying Vang came to UW–Madison as a Chancellor’s Scholar. Vang decided to pursue a nursing degree to better serve the Hmong population, which maintains many traditional and spiritual health practices and has not fully embraced the Western healthcare model. Upon graduation, Vang will begin a nurse residency at UW Health. She plans to return to graduate school for an advanced degree and possibly work with underserved populations in primary care.

Vang received a pin from Nancy Watts ’67. Watts devoted her career to psychiatric nursing, received her master’s degree in psychiatric nursing from the University of Colorado, and worked as a teacher at both University of Colorado and Marquette University. She also ran a partial hospitalization program at a mental health center in northeast Indiana.

Honoring Students Beyond Pins

In addition to the NAO Pin Awards, the School of Nursing grants several awards to outstanding undergraduate and graduate students at its convocation ceremonies in May. According to Karen Mittelstadt, the peer-nominated graduation awards are an opportunity to recognize the difference students have made to the School of Nursing during their academic careers through their leadership, scholarship, research, or compassionate care as student nurses.

“The fact that students are nominated by their classmates and professors, and the award winners are selected by a panel of faculty, make these graduation awards extra special,” says Mittelstadt, assistant dean for academic affairs at the School of Nursing. “They are among the most prestigious awards given out by the school, and honoring the winners at Convocation gives our entire community—faculty, staff, and students—the opportunity to recognize the outstanding work and contributions of the recipients.”

Congratulations to the 2019 graduation awards recipients:

  • Halee Nieuwenhuis and Stacey Park, Daisy in Training
  • Elizabeth Arth, Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award
  • Delora Prange, Ginsberg Family Awards
  • Stephanie Reopelle and Jillian Bodden, DNP Excellence Award
  • Theresa Watts, Signe Skott Cooper Writing Award
  • Zhiyuan Yu, Mary L. Keller Research Award