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BSN Student Honored by Veteran Group for Academic Achievement, Determination

BSN student Megan Janssen, who served eight years in the Army Reserve, is the recipient of a scholarship from the National Association of Veterans’ Program Administrators. (Photos by Allen Gillespie/UTHSC)

Many people at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center will recognize Megan Janssen from her time in Information Technology Services, where she worked with the educational technology team and as a project coordinator with the Project Management Office.

They might not know that she is a student in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program in UTHSC’s College of Nursing and set to graduate in December.

She made the career switch in August 2017, after caring for her grandmother, who had dementia. “It was always kind of in the back of my mind,” she said. “When I helped my parents taking care of my grandma, I thought, ‘I can do this.’ ”

She is apparently doing it well. Janssen recently received one of only eight scholarships awarded annually by The National Association of Veterans’ Program Administrators (NAVPA). One scholarship is awarded in each of the eight NAVPA regions of the United States as a way to directly assist deserving veterans in their educational goals.

“This year’s scholarship was highly competitive, and Megan is commended for her academic achievement and determination overall for Region III,” said Ilisa Gunn, associate registrar at UTHSC.

Janssen, 31, is from Cunningham, Tennessee. She served eight years in the United States Army Reserve, some of them while doing her undergraduate work in Spanish and art at the University of Memphis. She would drive to Nashville for army training once a month and also spend time there in training during the summer.

Three times she received deployment orders and prepped to go overseas. Each time the orders were canceled.

After graduating in 2010, she worked in several jobs before joining the ITS Department at UTHSC in 2013.

“I made it my goal to learn everything about the applications we supported,” she said.

When her grandmother got sick in 2016 and passed away, she started thinking about nursing as a career.

“I took some pre-reqs to see if I liked it,” she said. She enjoyed the anatomy and physiology classes at the University of Memphis. “I loved learning about the human body. I figured that I really wanted to give it a try. Here I am and I love it.”

She continued to work in ITS until December 2017, but had to quit after her school schedule got too hectic. Midway through her first semester in nursing school, she married Stuart Janssen. “Wedding planning while in school was crazy,” she said.

Her coworkers in ITS were a little shocked, she said, when they found out she was making the career switch. “It is a leap of faith, because you don’t know if you’re going to like it. I just thought it was something I should try.”

Based on her clinical experience so far, Janssen is considering working in postpartum or labor and delivery after she graduates. “I just like helping people,” she said.

Megan Janssen, center, is shown with, from left, Verlesha Wilson, certifying official for veteran affairs at UTHSC, and Darrylinn Todd, EdD, interim associate vice chancellor for Student Affairs and Enrollment Services.

Janssen believes UTHSC’s College of Nursing will help her do that. “They are really heavily focused on making sure when we graduate we can pass the NCLEX (the national licensure exam for nurses), because we can graduate just fine from a nursing program, but if we can‘t pass the NCLEX and get certified, we can’t work as nurses. They really, really focus on that, and it shows.”

She is grateful for the NAVPA scholarship and proud that her military service is remembered. “I got out of the army in 2013, and so it was just something that was in my past,” she said. “But we trained the same way that active-duty soldiers do, and so I didn’t want any of that to go to waste. It’s nice to be recognized for that.”