My story actually begins in the 1960s in isolation on a pediatric ward. Weeks of hospitalization gave me the desire to become a nurse. At that time, I envisioned a nurse to be a caring person who gave out ice cream while donning a hat that singularly represented the profession.
It was years before I was able to fulfill my dream of becoming a nurse. Marriage and family became the priority. But even with three little ones at home, I gathered the courage to enter nursing school. George Mason University seemed to have the perfect program for me. It was convenient, accredited, and, most of all, affordable. Even more impressive was the faculty. Their values of altruism, honesty, and academic excellence were evident both in and out of the classroom.
During my undergraduate studies, Georgine Redmond mentored me and several colleagues on the importance of representing Mason locally, regionally, and even nationally. She spent hours campaigning with her students as they ran for elected positions, helping to write speeches, and then prepping us on current health care policies and hot topics. I personally found her circulating letters of support among the delegates more times than I can count. At the end of every election, Dr. Redmond proudly stood in the back of the campaign hall as yet another Mason graduate would go on to help shape state and national public health care issues. Her contributions to our country cannot be measured; yet, most assuredly, they have been significant.
Then there was the time the White House phoned Mason’s School of Nursing requesting its presence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The Clinton administration was seeking the advice of expert nurse educators, clinicians, and administrators throughout the country, in an attempt to provide affordable health care for every American. It was no surprise that Dean Rita Carty was invited to be a part of this momentous event. Her years of knowledge and experience in health care reform were valuable. What was surprising, however, was that she asked me to join her.
A day that began bright and beautiful turned rainy by the time we arrived at the White House. Along with 200 other distinguished nurses, we waited outside the China Room for the sun to reappear. Once it became evident that the rain had passed, I told Dr. Carty, “I’ll meet you in the Rose Garden where I will find us seats.” Minutes later, she made her way through the crowd to discover me sitting in the second row, directly in front of the presidential dais. We listened to our nation’s president speak about his administration’s plan for health care reform. The White House took our photo. Looking back, I am still amazed. Dr. Carty could have chosen any one of her many students, including those in the prestigious PhD program, to escort her to the White House. Yet, she chose me—an undergraduate nursing student who possessed limited knowledge and virtually no nursing experience.
I went on to pursue my MSN. Mason had begun distance learning, so I thought I would help them refine it by living in Asia for the next 14 years. This wasn’t always easy. Along the way, issues arose; however, I found Mason’s educators to highly value commitment, professionalism, and flexibility. Several instructors were willing to adjust their course curriculum so I might meet the learning objectives from afar. As my advisor, Pam Cangelosi inherited all of my problems. But, with each and every “challenge” I sent her way, no less than three viable solutions came back. She was a magician with more tricks up her sleeve than could be counted.
As a student, I have personally established that one only gains from education what one desires to achieve. As a graduate student at Mason, I expected to learn and understand the role of how to be a successful nurse educator. Instead, this has been modeled for me in a most excellent way!
—Sharon Favazza, BSN ’93, MSN ’08, is a dorm parent at the Black Forest Academy in Kandern, Germany. She is taking a year off before beginning her doctoral studies in 2009.