McKayla Stratmeyer, a bright-eyed college student from Hermosa, is gearing up to graduate from Black Hills State University-Rapid City in May 2018 with an Applied Health Sciences associate’s degree. Once she has completed her degree at BHSU-RC, McKayla plans to continue her education in a nursing program.
Reflecting on her last few years, McKayla says that the people at BHSU were formative in her decision to pursue a career in nursing. She first realized this desire when she was in high school, taking dual credit courses at BHSU-RC.
“I got a head start on my degree through the dual enrollment program, taking eight college courses before I graduated high school. That saved me a lot of time and money, and helped me figure out what career I wanted to pursue,” McKayla says.
Dual credit is an opportunity for students to earn credits for high school as well as credit toward their college degree, all while getting a discount on the classes. Conversations with older classmates in some of these courses encouraged McKayla to consider nursing.
“I always liked the medical field and loved science. While taking dual enrollment courses, I asked older students a lot of questions about nursing, and I realized that I needed to be in the healthcare field! I wanted to be able to help people out,” Stratmeyer said. “I wanted a diverse degree. With nursing you can move around, try different specialties, and find what you like.”
This desire drove her to the BHSU Applied Health Sciences associate’s degree program, which will provide all the core classes she needs before applying to nursing school.
BHSU prepares approximately 60 students per year for admission into nursing programs. The associate’s degree in Applied Health Sciences offers students like McKayla all the general education and core classes required for admission into nursing programs at South Dakota State University and the University of South Dakota, as well as for other bachelor degree-level programs. The entire program, available on campus in Spearfish as well as at BHSU-RC, was developed to provide students with a straightforward track toward furthering their healthcare goals.
McKayla became a full-time student after graduating high school. She said she was thankful for the faculty and staff at BHSU, especially Jacob Hamik, admissions coordinator at BHSU-RC, who encouraged her through those first years of challenging material.
“I remember thinking that one of the classes was going to be too hard and that I should drop it. I told Jacob Hamik and he said, ‘No, you’ll do fine! I’m not going to let you drop it.’ He knew I could handle it,” says McKayla. “When I saw him at the end of the semester, he said, ‘Hey, it turned out pretty good, didn’t it?’ And he was right. His encouragement made him a great advisor.”
McKayla said another person who encouraged her was Pam Arneson, lecturer of science at BHSU: “She is an amazing teacher who knows her stuff,” McKayla shares. “She cares about her students and wants them to become the best that they can be.”
McKayla quickly realized that she could blend her desire for travel and varied work atmospheres with her passion for healthcare by becoming a travel nurse.
“While I love the Black Hills, I really want to see the world. I’m hoping to be a travel nurse for a couple of years and work across the United States through a travel nursing organization. You can find job openings in other states for short periods of time, anywhere from 8-13 months,” said Stratmeyer. “It’s just a great way to start working and traveling all at once!”
During her full schedule at BHSU-RC this semester, McKayla still finds time to be an active member of the Campus Activities Board and work as a lifeguard at the Roosevelt Swim Center. She says her evening classes at BHSU-RC allow her to work days at the swim center and keep up with homework.
“I’m excited that my younger sister is joining the BHSU crew,” McKayla shared. “She’s in high school, and she saw how much I enjoyed dual enrollment, so she started taking courses this semester too!”
BHSU-RC is located at 4300 Cheyenne Blvd. on the east side of Rapid City with easy access from I-90. The University is committed to serving veterans, has a large network of alumni living in the region, and has a business program in the top five percent of business schools worldwide. In spring 2018, BHSU-RC debuted a new block schedule providing students a flexible way to take classes.
BHSU-RC provides a variety of degree options to students. The public is also invited to observe classes through a $100 Visitor Pass program.
For more information on BHSU-RC, contact Jake Hamik, Jacob.Hamik@BHSU.edu