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Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing

College of Health Sciences

First graduates reflect on
the Marcia Dale Aspire Scholars Program

First Aspire Graduate Maggie McDonnell

*photo credit


A little about Aspire...

The Nursing Aspire program's purpose is to develop leaders in nursing to advance the profession. The late Dr. Marcia Dale (former dean of the School of Nursing) loved students, greatly enjoyed mentoring them, and was undoubtedly the epitome of a leader. For these reasons and more, the Aspire program was renamed the "Marcia Dale Aspire Scholars" program in her honor.

Four students are accepted into the program each year following an intense application/interview process. The Inaugural Aspire group of four are now seniors and will be graduating this May 2015. This is the second of four spotlights where each senior reflects on the value of the Marcia Dale Aspire Scholars program.

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A background on Maggie McDonnell...

McDonnell began her college career knowing she wanted to study nursing. In fact, says McDonnell, "For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to be a nurse. I come from a great line of nurses--my great grandma, my grandma and my aunt have all been nurses." McDonnell says she is drawn to the helping aspect of nursing, the many ways nurses can make a difference in people's lives.

So Maggie McDonnell set off to find the education she needed to reach her dream of becoming a nurse. She chose the University of Wyoming, "not only because of the proximity to my hometown of Fort Collins, Colorado," notes McDonnell. "And not only because UW happens to have a small student-to-faculty ratio. I chose UW primarily because of the Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing. The school's great reputation and the respect from the nursing community made it an easy decision to attend the University of Wyoming for nursing education."

Another easy decision, says McDonnell, was the decision to apply for the Aspire program. "I knew from the beginning I didn't just want to be a nurse--I wanted to be a nurse that made an impact and could make a difference in the nursing profession."

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A review of Aspire...

How has Aspire affected your view of nursing leadership?

Being a part of Aspire has made me realize how many different leadership opportunities there are in nursing. Nursing doesn’t just have to be at the bedside. There are many nurses working to better hospital policies to improve patient care. Nurses can also be involved politically by working to pass laws they feel are important, or giving their opinions on what should be done to make healthcare better.

Of the events you participated in as an Aspire student, describe which has made the biggest impact on you as a student, as a nurse and as a prospective leader?

One thing that has made a huge impact on me as a leader is giving the tours for Discovery Days. By doing this I felt as though I was able to use my leadership skills directly. I loved answering questions that the prospective students had and being able to show off our school. I remember coming to Discovery Days when I was looking at different colleges to attend. Being able to ask questions and look around at where I would be attending school really helped me to make my decision. I think it is very beneficial for the students to be able to talk to someone who is currently in the program. I can relate to what they are going through, give them tips about what I’ve found to be helpful when choosing a school and prepare them for this amazing journey. Being able to interact with prospective students is one of my favorite assignments in Aspire. I truly feel like I am fulfilling my duty as a leader when I get to share my excitement and directly talk with visitors.

What has been a challenge?

The only challenging part of Aspire that I’ve found is that it really challenges your thinking. It is important to be able to think critically and creatively when discussing different issues or participating in different events.

Has Aspire affected your view of what nurses do?

Aspire has made me realize that nurses are a very powerful force. We are the ones at the bedside giving direct patient care, so many rely on us for feedback. It is our responsibility to advocate for our patients.  As nurses, we have the ability to act on things we believe need to change in order to better our healthcare system. It takes a leader to act and make changes possible.

How would you describe the Aspire program to prospective students?

As an Aspire student you are an ambassador for the Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing. You are specifically chosen because of your leadership potential, enthusiasm, and intelligence. It is your responsibility to represent our school with professionalism, consistency, and a positive attitude. Aspire gives you the opportunity to participate in many different activities and meet amazing leaders in nursing. You learn different leadership skills and improve communication and collaboration skills to become a better, well-rounded nurse.

What doors of opportunity have opened to you as a result of Aspire?

I have had some amazing opportunities as a result of Aspire. Most recently, I was able to attend the American Nurses Association National Quality Conference in Orlando, Florida. At this conference I met nurses from around the nation and attended different seminars that presented evidence-based research on improving quality of health care. It really gave me the perspective that nurses are on the forefront when providing quality care. The nurses who conducted these studies saw a need for change in the way things were done to make them better. They shared the results of these studies along with research about what they did to help better nursing practices all over the country. There were so many great ideas, and it was amazing to see the nursing community coming together with the common goal of bettering health care.

Anything else you want to add that wasn't covered above? 

As stated above in my "background" section, I knew from the beginning I didn’t just want to be a nurse, I wanted to be a nurse that made an impact and could make a difference in the nursing profession. I wanted to be a leader. Taking part in the Aspire program has given me the head start I needed to make this happen. I’ve met many current nursing leaders and have gained the knowledge that will help me achieve a leadership role in my future. My leadership, communication, and collaboration skills have improved greatly, which will help me to be a better, well-rounded nurse. I am so thankful I had the opportunity to participate in the Aspire program. It has truly had a positive impact on my time in nursing school, and will ultimately have a positive impact on my future nursing career.


*photo credit

Maggie McDonnell poses with her dad after placing in a Father's Day race.

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posted 4/20/2015


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