[an error occurred while processing this directive] This article is from the EMU News Archive. The approximate date of publication was in April 2006. Current EMU news is available at www.emu.edu/news

in the classroom

Hadley Jenner: A Circuitous Path of Wonder

"Everything is full of opportunities for learning," says 55-year-old Hadley Jenner, who completed a nursing degree from EMU in December 2005. In reflecting on the path he?s taken, he views such opportunities in his life with "surprise and wonder."

Hadley spent the first nine years of his life in Iowa, the second nine in Missouri and then four years at Earlham College in Indiana, where he studied biology. From there, he continued eastward to the University of Pennsylvania to earn a master?s degree in environmental planning.

The summer of 1973 was Hadley?s first taste of land use planning in Alaska. Later, having worked as an environmental impact consultant and an environmental health planner, he met Janice Moomaw in Indianapolis. They were married in 1980; then it was back to Alaska, where the couple spent the next nine years living, working and raising three children in Anchorage. After Andrew (born '82) and Jon (born '87) joined the family, the Jenners adopted a daughter, Hope, born in 1986 in Calcutta. The saga continued. "We wanted our kids to know more about the world than just North America," Hadley says. So in 1989, the Jenners packed up for Kenya, where they spent seven years as country representatives for Mennonite Central Committee in Nairobi. As peace workers and "pasturalists," they began to understand environmental, ecological, economic, cultural and political issues that livestock herders face in arid regions. Hadley saw community health as a common thread between the issues, asking what gives people life, vitality, and confidence about the future. The family left Africa in 1996; they've lived in Harrisonburg ever since.

But being "settled" in one place doesn't mean doing the same thing for another 10 years. He and Jan enrolled in the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP) program at EMU. Jan completed a master?s there, and now directs CJP's Practice Institute. Hadley earned a one?year certificate, and after trying to build an environmental component for the CJP program that "didn?t fly," he accepted a position as a land use planner for Rockingham County.

Hadley soon began "looking for a new horizon." He describes his phase of work with the county as a sort of "cocoon" for his rebirth?as a nurse.

After consulting close friends about the dynamics of mid-life career change, Hadley felt ready to enroll in EMU's nursing program. A heart attack he suffered earlier that year did not spur this decision. Rather, Hadley had nurtured throughout his life an interest in health from a holistic, pragmatic perspective that grew out of an awareness of "what people care about."

Because of his educational background, Hadley was bumped forward in the program. Two years and another diploma later, he says fondly, "It's been too fast-kind of like drinking from a fire hose."

Re-entering the world of academia was a challenge, something Hadley thrives on. He was eager to learn, humbled by the rigor of the program and fascinated by the intricacies of nursing. "Nursing is like an amoeba," he says. "You can be all over the place [within the field] and still call yourself a nurse."

For now, he looks forward to some med-surge experience at Rockingham Memorial Hospital in Harrisonburg. February 6 marked his first day on the Renal Unit. While Hadley may not stay much longer than his two-year contract, he hopes that working with people with chronic diseases (such as diabetes) will help him gain insight into why patients often choose not to comply with good health practices. Nursing long-term patients also will give him the opportunity to get to know their families.

Making connections, after all, is Hadley's passion. He hopes to eventually integrate the different segments of his life and experience, to expand his focus on the health field to a community-wide orientation. He plans to continue in association with EMU, too, taking classes here and there - perhaps so the change won't feel as abrupt.

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"Just when I had life as a student figured out," he says, "the rug got pulled out from under me."

The adjustment to the working world shouldn't be too harsh, though, as long as Hadley maintains his physically and mentally active lifestyle. "I thrive in a place where I continue to learn about things' that allows me to question and chew on ideas," he states. He continues to pursue hobbies that supply energy: backpacking, canoeing, traveling, running, biking, cross-country skiing, nurturing his meadow, seeking out wildlife, enjoying good music, and - above all - "learning new stuff!"

Andrea J. Kniss is a senior culture, religion and mission major from Harrisonburg, Va.