Joe Hee Kim and Sangita Thapa: Challenges, Support, Success


12/12/2018

It is not uncommon for students who hold the same goal to have other things in common, too.

But, Joo Hee Kim and Sangita Thapa take it to another level.

Each was awarded a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree on Saturday, December 15 at the St. Ambrose University 2018 Winter Commencement Ceremony.

Each woman was born in a country outside the U.S.; each is married and has small children; and each was challenged academically and supported personally throughout her education.

And, both women succeeded. Joo Hee and Sangita each received a job offer prior to graduation.

Joo Hee Kim

Joo Hee was raised in South Korea. She came to the U.S. in 1999 and lived in Florida prior to attending Drexel University in Philadelphia. She graduated magna cum laude with a degree in business administration and spent six years in the professional business world.

She moved to Bettendorf after her husband earned his PhD and accepted a job in Iowa.

Joo Hee said she considered getting a graduate degree in accounting, but changed her mind after the birth of their second child. "I had some complications during delivery, and I didn't know what was going on. I felt powerless. All of these things came up, and that was the moment I started thinking about health sciences. I felt I needed to know about my body and know medical terminology, and afterward, I started searching study opportunities," she said.

Joo Hee was a part-time student in the nursing program for one year, then started taking classes full-time. At times, she found it challenging to balance the roles of parent, spouse, student and active member of her church. But, she always felt supported by the nursing program faculty and staff.

"Compared to my previous experience as an undergraduate business student at a much larger university, at SAU, it was much more family-like. I was in a relatively small cohort, which was helpful because the nursing program was very challenging and interesting, and the faculty were supportive and always encouraged us to go farther," she said.

"I appreciated their advice and instruction, and I appreciated my cohort," Joo Hee said, adding every student carried and contributed diverse experiences.

Joo Hee completed clinical experiences at each local hospital system and a preceptorship. Her education and hands-on hospital experience garnered her a job offer -- as a medical unit nurse with Unity Point Trinity-Bettendorf -- before graduation.

"Throughout the nursing program, I became more confident in myself and my skills, based on the lectures and clinical courses. I learned how to interact with patients and my cohort, which is really important knowledge because everything in this field is team-oriented. I can't do my job by myself," Joo Hee said.

She'll celebrate her graduation with her husband and children, and most likely many members of Grace Korean Church in Moline, who also provided her with support and encouragement throughout her nursing education.

Joo Hee is proud of what she has accomplished and looks forward to her career. "Nursing is a lot harder than business, maybe because it is more life-or-death thinking and there is more significance in my role," she said.

"I have been there as a patient and I know how it feels to be in the hospital and the anxiety you experience. Hopefully, I can use that to help and understand my patients more."

Joo Hee Kim '18


"Compared to my previous experience as an undergraduate business student at a much larger university, at SAU, it was much more family-like. I was in a relatively small cohort, which was helpful because the nursing program was very challenging and interesting, and the faculty were supportive and always encouraged us to go farther," Joo Hee said.

Nursing at SAU

Sangita Thapa

As a small child growing up in Nepal, Sangita knew she wanted to be a nurse. "It fascinated me," she said. "I like the interaction, working with patients and the idea of helping to cure them."

She was born in Nepal and moved to the U.S. eight years ago. She completed her prerequisites at Austin (Texas) Community College before moving to the Quad Cities and transferring to SAU.

"I moved here because I have family here, and when I applied for the nursing program and talked with the faculty and the dean, they were very helpful with the transition process," Sangita said.

"I wasn't thinking about attending a private university but I knew it was the right decision when I came," she said, adding she liked the quiet campus and the fact she'd attend classes within a cohort.

"It was a good experience to be with all of the same people for two years, and everyone wanted to help each other," Sangita said.

That support was important because Sangita was a full-time student, spouse, and parent to a six-year-old. At times, those roles were hard to balance, she said.

Sangita said her clinical experiences helped her decide which area of nursing she wanted to pursue, and she's accepted a position with Genesis Health System as a surgical unit nurse. She plans to work for a few years then pursue a graduate nursing degree.

"I think what was most challenging was being a mom and full-time student. I got a lot of support and encouragement from my husband and family, and my daughter," she said. "The instructors were very helpful and I really enjoyed learning here."

Sangita Thapa '18


"I wasn't thinking about attending a private university but I knew it was the right decision when I came," Sangita said, adding she liked the quiet campus and the fact she'd attend classes within a cohort. "It was a good experience to be with all of the same people for two years, and everyone wanted to help each other."

Nursing at SAU

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