Photo of Lisa Pawlak, who is graduating from UW-Green Bay in December 2022.

Without question, Lisa Pawlak is driven. As one of the hundreds of students graduating this winter at UW-Green Bay’s commencement ceremony, Lisa’s path to earn her bachelor of science in nursing speaks to the tenacious, problem-solving nature of a UW-Green Bay student.

Lisa has completed her degree while working full time as a registered nurse at the VA hospital and being engaged and available for her incredibly supportive husband and six (yes, six) children.

Her path started with a registered nursing degree at the local community college near Iron Mountain, Michigan. As a single mom, the thought of pursuing a four-year degree wasn’t feasible. After working for 10 years, (and getting married, and having more children) she started researching options for obtaining her BSN. “I heard really good things about the UW-Green Bay nursing program from talking with other nurses,” said Pawlak. She also learned that UW-Green Bay’s BSN program offers a fully online option which for Pawlak, who lives close to two hours north of Green Bay, was perfect.

“It seemed like a good fit, and the option of fully online was very appealing. Working fulltime and having six kids, I needed that flexibility.”

Her biggest fear? “I was apprehensive about being back in a classroom after 10 years,” says Pawlak. She questioned whether she would be able to keep up with the technology and more than anything, the overall manageability of her schedule.

“I started out slow, taking one class at a time. Once I realized that I could manage the classes plus work and family, I bumped up the pace a little bit.” The VA hospital helped out with a scholarship program and she was on her way.

“I thought, wow, I can really do this!” She was impressed that the program was tailored to busy RNs working 12-hour shifts and weekends. Even when the pandemic hit, Pawlak persevered.

“Working and going to school during a pandemic was very difficult. Schools shut down, some of our family became sick with Covid, and still having to work in the VA’s long-term care area where we were one of the first people to start masking and testing, played into the stress.”

When asked what advice she would share with someone considering continuing their education, “I would say ‘go for it!’ One of the nurses I worked with was inspired to get her masters after seeing me pursue my bachelors.”

“My kids are excited for me to be done, although I do plan to go back for masters,” said Pawlak. Her kids have been cheering for their Mom while she’s worked towards this degree, and her husband had been encouraging and supportive since day one. “They like talking about it and telling people and have developed good study habits. They [the kids] like doing homework where I do my homework.”

The best example, indeed.

Written by Kristin Bouchard

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