Three generations of Bellin College grads

Many Bellin College students find themselves following in the footsteps of a grandparent, parent, sibling or another relative when deciding on a career path. Abbygal VandenHouten, a third generation Bellin College graduate, chose a degree program at Bellin College knowing the great experience both her mother and grandmother had in their nursing programs. In high school, VandenHouten enjoyed biology but knew she did not want to be a nurse, but still wanted a career in healthcare. She came across medical imaging and decided to become a radiologic technologist.

“I liked the technical aspect, as well as providing patient care,” said VandenHouten. “My mom pushed me to go for my bachelor’s degree right away, and I wanted the typical college experience. The technology in the Health Sciences Resource Center (HSRC) at Bellin College is cutting edge. Based on the experiences my mother and grandmother had at Bellin, I knew it would be an excellent program.”

VandenHouten described her experience during the past four years at Bellin College as unimaginable.

“The small class sizes allow you to make friendships with not only the students in your classes, but also with the faculty and staff. They have all pushed me to become a better radiologic technologist,” said VandenHouten.

VandenHouten works at Aurora BayCare Medical Center in Green Bay in general X-ray. She would like to move to a specialty such as MRI or CT after gaining some experience.

Her mother and grandmother had slightly different experiences. Her grandmother, Suzanne Schroeder-Johnson, graduated with the class of 1966 and her mother, Michelle VandenHouten, graduated with the class of 1993.

“Nursing school seems like stone ages ago today,” said Schroeder-Johnson. “When I was in nursing school, it was called Bellin School of Nursing and was a private, non-denominational diploma program with many strict rules. There were no male students, married students or pregnant students. There was a curfew in place and we had dormitory house mothers.”

Schroeder-Johnson was awarded a scholarship that covered her tuition, room and board to attend Bellin from Thilmany Paper. The scholarship award brought Schroeder-Johnson to Bellin to pursue a nursing career which she realized was one of the best decisions of her life.

“The educational curriculum was the best with one of the highest passing rates for the state boards,” exclaimed Schroeder-Johnson. “During my time at Bellin, integration with the University of Wisconsin system had just begun. Instructors were very caring and terrific mentors, and the hands-on clinical was fantastic.”

Schroeder-Johnson’s nursing career took her from working in the ICU as a new graduate to obtaining certification in mental health and occupational health. She recently retired from teaching nurses and hospice aides at a small community college in Southern California.

“The most challenging time during her career was when she had to transfer her diploma credits and work experience to a BSN program. The evolution of nursing education helped to solve that dilemma,” said Schroeder-Johnson.

Schroeder-Johnson to new Bellin College graduates: Nursing and medical imaging are wonderful careers. Healthcare careers create endless opportunities, security and a lifetime of learning.

Michelle VandenHouten remembers going to nursing school when Bellin College was located in a two-story building on the corner of Webster and Cass Streets. Classrooms, offices and the student lounge were on the first floor, and the skills lab consisted of two manikins and an IV arm.

“I remember learning to count the drops per minute and labeling the liter bags to calculate IV flow rate,” said VandenHouten. “I am not sure students learn that anymore with the IV infusion pumps available at most hospitals,” she added.

“The quality of education is one thing that has not changed in the last 25 years. The new campus provides technology I wish I had when I was a student. The evolution of nursing education and new technology keeps moving the healthcare field forward. What an exciting time to be a student at Bellin College, said VandenHouten.

VandenHouten recalls a time shortly after graduation when she was working nights at St. Mary’s Hospital in the postpartum department in maternity.

“It was a slow night and a single mother was in labor. I had not witnessed the birth of a baby yet, and I jumped in to help and support the mother as her breathing coach. She had a normal delivery, giving birth to a healthy baby. She was discharged, and a couple weeks later she had tracked me down to ask me to be the baby’s godmother. I graciously declined, but was touched by the effort for her to find me, a total stranger, and want me to be involved in her child’s life forever. I thought that was incredible, and I have not forgotten either one of them,” recalls VandenHouten.

Bellin College continues to see the family members of past graduates fill the seats at new student orientations. Faculty and staff are inspired to see the legacy of Bellin College continue to evolve and educate new generations of nurses and medical imaging professionals. The College looks forward to seeing what the next 100 years will bring.

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