Iowa Nursing Grads Reflect on their Education During National Nurses Week

By Katie Linder
University of Iowa College of Nursing alumni say their time in Iowa City prepared them for rewarding careers in nursing.

From careers in clinical care to health care administration, as well as higher education, Iowa nursing graduates are making a difference in medicine. During National Nurses Week, which is May 6–12, 2021, several alumni and a few current Iowa faculty share why they chose Iowa and how their education helped influence their careers.  


As an Iowa native, Samantha Jirak (13BSN, 18DNP) said the University of Iowa College of Nursing was always her number one choice because of its ranking and job placement rates.

Samantha Jirak Samantha Jirak

"I received my admission letter on my 18th birthday and never looked back," says Jirak. "I knew my goal was to become a nurse practitioner, so as my graduation date drew near, I again knew there was nowhere I would rather be."

Amalia Gedney-Lose (13BSN, 17DNP) is an assistant professor at the UI College of Nursing and says the college has always felt like home.

"I came to Iowa because I knew I could receive a world-class education, surrounded by supportive faculty and peers, and in an environment that fostered growth and learning," Gedney-Lose said.

Dong-Soo Shin (03PhD), a gerontological nursing professor at South Korea's Hallym University School of Nursing, says Iowa was an easy choice.

"The excellent professors, safe environment, and reasonable tuition are why I chose Iowa," Shin said.


Margo Halm (85BSN, 87MA) is the associate chief nurse executive for nursing research and evidence-based practice at the VA Portland Health Care System. She says her education at Iowa was the gateway to a rewarding nursing career. 

Stephanie Brigger Stephanie Brigger

"The College of Nursing taught me how to be a competent, compassionate nurse. Valuing mentorship and collaboration sparked an intrigue to understand the world of research and how science informs our practice," Halm said. "It also turned me into a writer―a passion fueled by a desire to spread how nurses impact the health and lives of people everywhere."

Stephanie Brigger (81BSN) is the vice president for development at Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas. She says her education at Iowa made her feel highly regarded among her peers and employers.

"The college is highly ranked and is a national leader in evidence-based care and nursing research," says Brigger.  "My education provided an exceptional, comprehensive foundation to provide professional nursing practice and more."

Cormac O'Sullivan is an associate professor and director of the anesthesia nursing program at the UI College of Nursing. He says Iowa helped him grow and expand his goals.

Staja 'Star' Booker Staja "Star" Booker

"I had no idea how great an education I was getting while I was getting it," O'Sullivan said. "I was a travel nurse for three years of my career and everywhere I went they would say something like, '"Oh you're from Iowa? Great. We know you're good.'"

Staja "Star" Booker (17PhD) is an assistant professor in the University of Florida College of Nursing. She says she knew the education she received at Iowa would position her to develop into a leader in her specialty.

"My experience at Iowa helped shape my approach to research and gave me a solid foundation to be a strong scientist and academician," she says. 


Jesse Weiss (20BSN), a PhD candidate at the UI College of Nursing, says the hands-on practice students receive outside of the classroom are unmatched. 

"In speaking to colleagues who attended other nursing institutions, it is evident that the wide array of clinical opportunities Iowa offers, and the skills that students are allowed to practice, are features that make Iowa stand out, and such features make Iowa grads better prepared to join the nursing workforce," Weiss said.

Terry Wicks Terry Wicks

Bonnie Seely (20CER), a nurse practitioner at Virginia Gay Hospital and Clinic in Vinton, Iowa, and the Alli Center in Coralville, Iowa, says her experience with the clinical part of the program was exceptional.

"My preceptors were amazing," Seely says. "I gained experience in a variety of different clinical settings that were complemented the level of learning I was doing in the classroom."

Terry Wicks (81BSN, 18DNP) is a clinical assistant professor at the University of North Carolina Greensboro School of Nursing and a former military nurse. He says a nursing education at Iowa is a genuinely life-changing gift—one he chose to pursue not once, but twice.

"To choose the University of Iowa College of Nursing for the first time was a choice made of hopes and dreams. Choosing to come to the College of Nursing the second time was-well, "'Once a Hawkeye, always a Hawkeye,'" Wicks said.

Celebrate National Nurses Week by supporting future nurses. Donations to the University of Iowa College of Nursing Student Financial Aid Fund provides scholarships for nursing students. Give today!

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