Malerie Plank, a 2007 nursing graduate of Eastern Mennonite University (EMU), is now pursuing a Doctorate of Nursing Practice from the University of Iowa.
How did your academic studies and professors at EMU prepare you for your graduate studies/current work?
I distinctly remember [nursing professor] Dr. Ann Hershberger told me that after I spent my years abroad to Honduras with Virginia Mennonite Missions, I would come back and decide to go to graduate school. At the time I was convinced this would not be the case. She, of course, was right. My nursing professors at EMU seemed to have a broader understanding of the nursing profession that prepared us clinically to be good registered nurses, but also prepared us for further education if we decided to study more. An emphasis on public health and a disease prevention perspective has kept me interested in this topic, even though I have only worked acute care until now.
What do you think made your application to graduate school stand out among others?
I believe that my experience abroad and my diverse nursing experiences made me attractive as a well-rounded individual, as well as the success I had had so far in my career. Two of my EMU nursing professors provided professional references for my graduate school application.
What do you think makes EMU graduates distinctive?
Hands down, EMU opened my narrow view of the world, and gave me a broader world perspective. Granted, my life experience was probably much less diverse, growing up in rural Iowa than the student who came from a larger Eastern city. I cannot speak for other EMU grads, but I think that EMU instills a passion for social justice and a concern for the neighbor next door as well as on the other side of the world. This passion fuels the jobs and careers we choose and the way we generally interact in our communities.
What attracted you to attend EMU as an undergraduate?
I was attracted to the small atmosphere, the Mennonite community and the cross-cultural experience. I also felt good about the nursing faculty when I met them at a college visit. The small department showed me that I would have the attention and help I needed. It was also nice to see the personal interest they take in their students’ success.
Describe your field of study and research at the University of Iowa.
The DNP is a clinical degree, so we don’t generally do research. However, my senior capstone quality improvement project is about improving compliance in the hospital with the way we screen patients for advance directives and how we engage the patient and encourage them to consider creating them. Essentially, the project is showing that the most successful time to create advance directives is with a primary health care provider that the patient trusts, and before crisis hits.
What are some favorite memories of your time at EMU?
Some of my favorite memories occurred over coffee and discussion at the Common Grounds coffeehouse. I loved going and seeing who might be hanging out there, and what discussion we might get into.
I had a pretty life-changing experience on a spring break service trip we took to Camden, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as we saw an alternative way to live within the city, particularly the poverty and violence-stricken areas.
I can’t forget the memories made from living at Martin House, the community housing I believe no longer exists. I’ll never forget the soup night fundraiser we had for anyone campus-wide who wanted to attend to benefit a social work cause.