When two employees on Chris Lewandowski’s five-person team at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Federal Air Marshal Service decided to pursue master’s degrees at American Sentinel University, she became one of their biggest cheerleaders.
Chris, along with coworkers Michelle Pianti, Kelly Dawson and Andrew Tabussi, had completed American Sentinel’s BSN program in 2013, learning the commitment and fortitude it takes to go back to school as an adult, parent, and professional. Kelly and Andrew, both nurses on the TSA Federal Air Marshal’s occupational medical team, enjoyed the BSN experience so much they continued on for MSN degrees as well.
In August 2016, Kelly and Andrew completed their MSN programs—and Chris decided it was important to celebrate their success. Neither had made the trip to Denver, Colorado, for the June commencement ceremony, so Chris figured she would bring American Sentinel to them.
On August 8, one day after they had finished their final courses, Andrew and Kelly arrived at the office to find a room filled with coworkers, family members and the tune of Pomp and Circumstance—as well as caps, gowns and mortarboards supplied by American Sentinel hanging in their cubicles. The surprise ceremony included a commencement address by Chris’s daughter, a postdoctoral fellow at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense, and formal recognition and conferral of degrees by TSA/Federal Air Marshal Service’s former deputy division director of law enforcement and industry training.
To Andrew, who has worked on the occupational medical team since 2011, the surprise commencement was incredibly touching. “It’s hard to describe what this meant to me and my family,” he says. “It was great to have my kids attend to show them they can accomplish anything if they work at it. I was also humbled and empowered to be recognized by our agency and to have such prestigious speakers there. And, to have the ceremony sanctioned by American Sentinel was just great.” Andrew pursued the nursing education specialization and hopes to one day teach as an adjunct.
Kelly, an employee with the agency since 2010, says that the support she and others have received has fueled her success. “Chris has encouraged me to reach beyond my own aspirations and reach goals I would never have dreamed achievable,” she says. “It was wonderful for our families to celebrate with us, and we have the most supportive, cohesive staff, which is a reflection of our excellent leadership.” Kelly too chose the nursing education specialization and hopes to expand her role to facilitate adequate preparation of tomorrow’s nurses.
“Attending a graduation ceremony is a formal, public acknowledgement of all of the challenges that one has to overcome to complete their education,” says Chris, adding that she is a big believer in celebrating all of “life’s happy moments.” “Andrew and Kelly are powerful role models for their school-age children. This was a way for us to show them along with their spouses just what a significant accomplishment this is.”
Thus far, four employees from TSA Federal Air Marshal’s occupational medical office have completed BSN degrees at American Sentinel University. Kelly and Andrew were the first to complete the MSN as well.
Kelly says that the educational programs at American Sentinel exceeded her expectations. “I continue to highly recommend American Sentinel to any nurse who is thinking of taking the plunge to advance their education,” she says. “American Sentinel offers support from start to finish. I will forever be grateful for this educational experience.”
Inspired by Andrew and Kelly? An MSN program can be your passport to a specialty nursing field, like nursing education, informatics, nursing management and organizational leadership, or infection control. Specialized knowledge forms the foundation of these nursing fields. When you acquire new knowledge, you can apply it to nursing practice in ways that enhance patient care and improve outcomes.
Read the other student success stories for more inspiration.