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Student fast-tracks JTO nursing program to serve country

President and CEO Connie Boerst, left, and Sam Grow following his graduation ceremony at the college.

Shortly after arriving on the Bellin College campus in the summer of 2018, graduate Sam Grow learned he would be deployed with the Army Reserve for a year sooner than he had anticipated. That meant an already fast-track junior transfer bachelor of science in nursing degree became an even quicker-than-usual pace. Grow was deployed in late January on an undisclosed mission.

Bellin College leaders, including President and CEO Dr. Connie Boerst, worked with Grow to make sure he had all the necessary qualifications to complete his studies early and with the same standards expected of all students.

“We value our students and their education and we knew that if we had a deployment in the middle of his education and he had to come back, it wouldn’t be in his best interest,” Boerst said. “With a degree in hand, he’ll have more opportunity when he goes to be deployed. He’ll have a better skill set to serve our country.”

Grow is a First Lieutenant and medical operations officer in the Army Reserve medical service corps. While on deployment, he won’t be serving as a nurse but will be in a more administrative role. It was recently reported to Bellin College that he earned his Registered Nurse title after passing the NCLEX exams before leaving the country.

“When I found out I was deploying with the Army Reserve, Bellin College leaders almost immediately came up with a plan that would allow me to graduate a semester early and take my NCLEX before I left the country,” Grow said. “They worked with me to create a special schedule and made sure I was comfortable with how rapidly I was progressing through the program and offered extensive support throughout my entire journey.  I am eternally grateful for all the staff and faculty and Bellin College, and, thanks to them, I look forward to working in the nursing field upon my return from deployment.”

While on deployment, Grow said he would be doing medical mission planning and support for a surgical team.

Dr. Mary Rolloff was a newly minted Bellin College dean of nursing when faced with Grow’s predicament. She sat with Grow and decided to “fast-track an already fast-tracked program” after initially thinking it couldn’t be done.

“Sam (Grow) was so responsible in notifying us so early of this anticipated deployment that I started thinking, ‘Could we do something different, is there any way so that he could finish and leave with his degree in hand’,” Rolloff said. “He said he would do whatever he needed to do to make this happen and he has done that and more.”

For some of his tailored academic plan, Grow became a section of one and completed group projects and classwork solo, Rolloff said. Faculty, staff and leaders worked to assure all standards were met while working around Grow’s unique needs especially when one two-week training exercise last November, became two, two-week training exercises, she said.

“Not only did he succeed, but he excelled in the process,” Rolloff said. “The reality was it really did take a village for this to happen.”

It’s not the first time Bellin College has done such a task for a student. Staff members recall at least two recent examples when faculty and staff have assisted military students in order to get them through their education and back to his or her military obligations. 

 “After getting my first undergraduate degree from a large state university, I couldn’t believe that the staff would be so friendly and receptive,” Grow said. “I felt like every one of the staff and faculty truly cared about me and my goals, and wanted me to succeed. The faculty all have a wealth of knowledge and experience and were invaluable resources whenever I had questions about content or skills.”

Grow was honored at a special ceremony at the college in early January.

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