A challenging year brings clarity for community health graduate
Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.
There’s a special satisfaction that comes with completing something, and after eight years and a few stops and starts, Kaitlyn Weeks is about to finish one of her biggest endeavors to date.
This May, Weeks will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in community health from ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation.
“I’ve had an interesting path to graduation but I’m so proud of myself for getting as far as I’ve gotten and earning the grades that I have while working and teaching,” she said.
Born and raised in Kodiak, Alaska, Weeks made the decision to move to Arizona to attend college after graduating high school. Her first year didn’t exactly go to plan, so she took a step back and some time off to reevaluate before returning. She would do this once more during her time at ASU before settling into her major.
Then 2020 spurred new motivation. Weeks has been taking classes for the last year straight in an effort to finish. Over the summer she took extra courses, requiring a course overload authorization.
In the process she made the Dean’s List, earning a 4.0 last fall. It’s an achievement that wasn’t even on her radar before.
“The pandemic provided a lot of clarity for me. I had COVID over the summer and I was stuck at home so I was doing school work all the time. It definitely gave me the space to allow myself to focus more than I ever have before.”
With her degree nearly in hand, she’s looking to the future. Below, Weeks reflects on finding her passion while at ASU and shared what’s next for her.
Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
Answer: Taking anatomy labs with Dr. Kingsbury, I fell in love with the subject and then going from taking that class to teaching that class and loving it even more. And I learned that I really enjoy teaching it to other people and transferring that passion that I have to for it onto other students that are also going into similar health care-related fields. I love being able to teach students a new way of doing things and those students having their own aha moment and everything kind of clicks for them and they understand it and are able to apply it. I think it’s really cool to be able to give students a new perspective, especially since we’re peers.
They could come into it not really enjoying or because it’s a requirement and end up really loving it or finding their own passion for it and maybe wanting to pursue more health care-related classes because of it.
Q What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?
A: I always thought my academic advisers would be my biggest mentors, but they ended up being my professors. A lot of my professors, especially this last year, have been huge mentors for me. From helping me apply for master’s programs to just being there. You definitely should use them as a resource and I feel like a lot of students don’t. I know that I sometimes felt intimidated going to office hours but at the end of the day, they’re there to help you learn, supplement your learning, and help clarify anything that you don’t understand.
Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?
A: Professor Jeffrey Kingsbury helped me take that step to believe in myself that I could be an anatomy teacher and that I’m good enough to do this. He was the one who inspired me to apply for the job, and I ended up getting it and loving it. So I appreciate him to the ends of the earth for that!
Also, Samantha Calvin. She has helped me so much especially in my pursuit of getting into a master’s program, answering my questions about the applications, and just giving me that extra support. She has inspired me in so many ways, to take those additional steps and put myself out there and not be afraid because I’m perfectly capable. She is just there for her students and she cares about us and it shows.
She encourages us to get involved, volunteer, network and start exploring our interests. She just opens your eyes to all these opportunities and it’s awesome.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: Don’t give up. I’ve had a very different path than the traditional four-year route right out of high school, but it’s so important just to finish. Even if you’re not 100% sure what you want to do or where it’s going, take chances, get to know your professors and get involved but don’t give up.
I’m super happy I never gave up and there were absolutely times where it was very difficult for me and I felt like it was just droning on, but I’ve always loved education and learning so that was part of the reason I never quit. I know we’re in the middle of a pandemic and it is hard to learn but keep going.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: I’m currently applying to the Nursing, Entry to Practice MS because that will allow me to get my RN license and so I can get into nursing education that way. I’ve been inspired in the last year to become a nursing educator because we know there is a nursing shortage so the need is there. And, we’re also short-staffed on nursing educators. Since teaching is something I love to do, being able to expand that and achieve my career goals of being a nurse as well, it’s a win-win.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: I would definitely use that money to help underserved communities. I’m an Alaska native and within community health, I’ve done a lot of research into Native peoples and the health disparities among Indigenous communities and it is kind of overlooked. So I would want to use that money to create infrastructure, education and improve health access and equity.