Q&A with Sarah Brzozowski, PhD’21

headshot of Sarah Brzozowski
Sarah Brzozowski, PhD’21

Where do you consider your hometown? Where do you currently reside?
My hometown is Greenfield, Wisconsin, and now I currently reside in Madison, Wisconsin.

Why did you choose the UW–Madison School of Nursing to complete your PhD?
I knew I wanted a PhD, and I wanted to pursue it through an in-person program. Another important characteristic I was looking for was the culture of the program. I wanted a supportive program where there was collaboration and partnership with both faculty and other students. A program where I could grow beyond just becoming a researcher. If the program didn’t feel right or align with the culture and environment I was looking for, I was prepared to put my PhD plans on hold. However, during the application and interview processes, I quickly learned the culture I was looking for was right here at the School of Nursing!

Explain your journey into nursing. How are you currently using or planning to use your degree?
Nursing was not my first degree. I initially set out to have a career in international business and studied Spanish and business. However, while pursuing my first degree, it became apparent that wasn’t what I wanted to do as my career. I had loved science my whole life and had volunteered with my mom, who was a nurse, at her hospital growing up. I realized my calling was nursing, and I haven’t looked back since. Being a nurse is a large part of my identity. Although I found my home in nursing, my interest in business and organizations hasn’t diminished, and I obtained a master’s degree in business administration. My research has brought my passions together and is focused on leadership, organizational culture, and nursing excellence. I use my degree and the knowledge learned through obtaining my PhD every day in my role as Director of Magnet and Nursing Excellence where I oversee Magnet, nursing shared governance, and nursing research, as well as evidence-based practice programming and nursing data analytics.

What’s the most rewarding part of being a nurse?
The influence of nurses on patients and communities, as well as having an amazing group of colleagues around the world.

Dean Linda Scott and alumna Sarah Brzozowski pose together wearing face masks
Dean Linda Scott and Sarah Brzozowski at the 2021 Winter Graduation Celebration event

What advice would you give to current nursing students or individuals who are considering an advanced degree?

There is no time better than the present to start on your journey. I’d also encourage current or prospective students to reflect on their core goals and values. Opportunities within nursing are endless and knowing who you are will lead you to the most amazing and rewarding experiences.

Who from the School of Nursing had or continues to have an impact on your nursing journey?
Dr. Linsey Steege, my advisor during the PhD program, has influenced me as a nurse and professional in ways I could never put into words. Her ability to coach and mentor, and her method of thinking are remarkable. In addition, Dr. Barb Pinekenstein has been a big influence and an ongoing mentor and role model. She has taught me practical, focused skills, and has also taught me new ways of looking at my career in nursing, including what it means to have a legacy.

What was your favorite experience through your PhD program? Why?
My favorite experience was Signe Skott Cooper Hall, if I can frame an “experience” that way. The opportunities I had, the knowledge I gained, and the people I met in that building were my favorite part of the PhD program.

Is there anything else you would like to share?
I am proud and honored to say I am a Badger nurse! I am part of an amazing group of nurses and health care professionals who share the Badger nurse identity!