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Back to school

Family illness compels a former teacher to consider a career in nursing; a scholarship provides the means

At 45, Stephanie Cattie (B.S.’20/N) never thought she’d be back in college. But after her father had a stroke, she noticed a correlation between his communication difficulties and those of her 17-year-old son, Collin, who has Down syndrome. She started thinking about how sensory responses affect behavior and wondered if a better understanding of these responses could help meet patients’ needs on a more holistic level.

The former biology teacher applied to Virginia Commonwealth University to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing. But it was a tough decision.

“I didn’t want to spend money on myself,” Cattie says. “I have three children to put through college. How are we going to pay for that, let alone pay for me?”

The Lettie Pate Whitehead Scholarship reduced her need to work, so that she could be more involved in her studies and other activities, such as the School of Nursing’s Leadership Fellows Program. She believes experiences like this gave her a stronger vision of how she can effect change in health care.

Beyond the financial assistance the scholarship offered, Cattie found its mission to support women’s education particularly resonant.

“I like my daughter seeing her mom have this opportunity,” Cattie says. “The things that you dream to do, you can do.”