At left, UIU graduate Marianela Melendez is surrounded by her three daughters-in-law who came to see her receive her BSN pin at the Upper Iowa University Center in Mesa, Ariz. Melendez's husband, her three sons and three grandsons, who mostly traveled from Peru and Mexico, also came to witness her graduation. At right, she is shown with other members of the RN-BSN class -- Kathy Schmitz and Nelson Silva-Craig.
FAYETTE, Iowa (May 10, 2014) – It took three tries at three different universities, but Marianela Melendez recently completed her bachelor's of science in nursing (BSN) degree to become a member of the Upper Iowa University Class of 2014.
Melendez, who came to the United States from Iquitos, Peru, in 2003, was surrounded by family as she received the pin that recognized her completion of the BSN. Family included her husband of 38 years, her three sons, their wives, and their three sons. Her husband is also living in the States now; one son is a mechanical engineer and works for a mining company in Mexico; another son, a pharmacist, lives in Lima, Peru; and a third son, who graduated from Arizona State University, is also an engineer, and lives in Northern California. All of them attended her pinning ceremony as well as her sisters-in-law and brother-in-law. "My family made up half of the attendees," Melendez laughs.
After moving to the United States, Melendez earned an associate's degree in nursing in 2007 and has worked at Maricopa Integrated Health System for seven years. Maricopa has a hospital, 12 satellite ambulatory/outpatient clinics and a specialties building. Melendez is a nurse at one of the clinics, working Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
"When I moved here, I studied to be a medical assistant. I found a job immediately and stayed with Mountain Park Health Center until I graduated as an RN. I worked full time while I started my pre-requisition classes. It was like going up a ladder: first I did the nurse assistant, then the LPN and finally the RN," she added. "Since I finished my associate's degree, I had planned to continue my education and become a BSN. I tried at a traditional university, but it wouldn't work into my schedule as an ambulatory nurse. Then I tried a completely online program. That was very difficult because if I did not understand something, when I asked and got the answer back by email, I was already lost."
The Upper Iowa RN-BSN program includes both science and business-related courses that strengthen nursing skills and help prepare nurses for management and executive positions. The face-to-face program at the UIU Mesa Center allowed Melendez to work full time and attend evening classes.
Melendez said she had been ready to give up on her dream when a co-worker introduced her to Stephanie Tippin, UIU assistant professor of nursing. "She promised me that she would help me succeed, and I told her I would try for a third time," Melendez said. By the time she had completed her first UIU course, Melendez had lost her fears about completing the program and believed she could make it.
"My experience at UIU-Mesa was great, from the first day till the last day. Stephanie was there all the time to support and help me, even when she was not my instructor. All the instructors worked with us, helping us to learn and succeed. And the staff and administration were wonderful," Melendez said. "For me going to the classes was like going home; you know everybody and everybody knows you."
Melendez continues to work at Maricopa, but is thinking about becoming a nurse practitioner, becoming certified in a specialty area or completing her master's degree.
"Upper Iowa has made me feel so special," Melendez adds. "UIU-Mesa is the best place to study. They have good instructors, are very friendly, and you are a person not a student number. It will be hard for me not to go there anymore. I will miss them."
About Upper Iowa University Founded in 1857, Upper Iowa University is a private, not-for-profit university providing undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 6,200 students – nationally and internationally – at its Fayette campus and learning centers worldwide. Upper Iowa University is a recognized innovator in offering accredited, quality programs through flexible, multiple delivery systems, including online and self-paced degree program. With a focus on developing leaders and lifelong learners, UIU provides dual enrollment programs for high school students as well as continuing education and professional development opportunities for learners of any age. For more information, visit www.uiu.edu.
Monica Bayer Heaton
Associate Vice President for Communication and Marketing