This is part four of a nine-part series profiling American Sentinel University’s leadership team. Check back each Monday to learn more about the strong leadership that guides American Sentinel and gather their tips for success in healthcare and in education.
Growing up in Iowa, Karen Whitham dreamed of becoming a nurse. It was the only career she ever wanted. Unfortunately, her plans of going to school were thwarted by circumstances beyond her control. She was forced to take a job at a local factory where she drove a forklift for 14 years. All those years she never stopped dreaming of becoming a nurse. So one day, when the factory announced it was closing, she got in her car and drove straight to the college. It was time to make her dream a reality.
“If you’ve read my blog “Karen’s Corner,” you know that I faced all the same fears that many of our RN to BSN students face. It had been 20 years since I sat in a classroom, and to make matters worse, I was starting on my Associates Degree at the fabulous age of 38,” Dr. Whitham explained. The year was 2003. By 2009, she had earned her first master’s and was starting on her second master’s in Higher Education and a doctorate in education (Ed.D.).
“I knew I wanted to teach nursing before I even finished my Associates Degree in 2005. I was so fortunate to have stellar professors. Some of my classmates weren’t so lucky. It was immediately apparent to me that educators play a very important role in creating great nurses.” Dr. Whitham started teaching after one year of hospital experience, just one year after earning her A.D.
Understanding online education
If there is anyone who can speak to online education, it would have to be Dr. Whitham. She completed her online BSN in just three semesters and started on her MSN right away. Her M.S. in Higher Education was also completed online, while her Ed.D. was earned in a “blended” program with a mix of online and traditional classroom components.
Hungry for knowledge
“Some people like to collect things…like angels, for example. I collect knowledge. Every time I learn something new, I learn how much more is out there that I don’t know about. The more I can learn, the better I can serve others.” Dr. Whitham is currently pursuing her MBA Healthcare at American Sentinel, and is already looking into her next master’s degree in informatics. “If I’m not learning, I’m not living,” Dr. Whitham admitted. “Maybe I’m just making up for lost time!”
Secrets to success
Dr. Whitham has plenty of advice and helpful tips for non-traditional students and online learners. Most of these have been captured in her “Karen’s Corner” blog series. What isn’t listed there, may come as a surprise to parents who regularly admonish their children to turn off the television while doing homework. “It’s kind of my dirty little secret. I have to have the TV on in the background while I study. It was my way of staying connected with my family while pursuing my education,” Whitman confided.
Other fun facts
Dr. Whitham’s favorite indulgence is a Saturday marathon of NCIS, her all-time favorite TV show. “Surely I’m not the only one with a secret crush on Mark Harmon?” Dr. Whitham also loves to read mysteries and historical romances, something that comes in handy while racking up frequent flyer miles to Vancouver, Washington, where her two grandchildren live with her son and daughter-in law.
With one doctorate, two masters’ and another two on the way, it’s fair to say that Dr. Karen Whitham has come a long way from her forklift job at the factory. But what is more impressive than her accomplishments, are her passion and devotion to the profession of nursing. “Since the day I left the factory, I have never once woke up with that feeling that I have to go to work. I get to go to work. It is such a privilege to get to do what you truly love.”