After she graduated high school, Ann Hagstrom earned her vocational nurse licensure (LVN) through Amarillo College and immediately began working as a nurse. She soon moved to Lubbock, Texas, and earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from Texas Tech University through their LVN to BSN program and continued her nursing career as she raised her four boys.

“When my youngest was in his junior year of high school, I remember thinking to myself, If I’m going to get my master’s, I better do it before he goes to college and I send all my money with him!” So in 2009, before she transitioned to an empty nest, Ann completed her Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) from Lubbock Christian University. Soon after she earned her MSN, she was hired as a nurse educator at one of her alma maters, Texas Tech University. She also worked as a nurse in summer camp programs for visually impaired children and adults and their families.

In 2015, inspired by her father, who had earned his Doctor of Education, Ann decided to take her own education all the way. She applied and was accepted to the Doctor of Education in Instructional Leadership with a concentration in Nurse Education, a hybrid program at The University of Alabama combining online and in-person instruction from both the College of Education and the Capstone College of Nursing.

Ann Hagstrom with her family“I told my dad after I got accepted, ‘Since it’s an education program and you have your Doctor of Education, maybe they’ll let you hood me when I finish.’ And he thought that would be fun, and he looked at me and said, ‘But if I don’t make it, I want you to go on and finish without me.’” On Aug. 1 that year, Ann’s father passed away just before she began the program. “From that point on, it was a promise I had made to him — I would finish.”

Ann was drawn to UA’s program because of its interdisciplinary nature, offering insight from both the nursing and education colleges at UA. “Nurses teach all the time — we teach patients and we teach their families. But I was interested in adding to what I’d learned about nurse education in my master’s, and UA’s program offered by both colleges was intriguing to me.”

Ann Hagstrom with her childrenAnother feature of the program that appealed to Ann was its cohort model — you begin and end the program with the same group of students. “Nobody really understands what you’re going through except the people going through it with you. Family and friends can be a great support, but it is different than the support you get from people who are in it with you.” Ann enjoyed seeing her classmates face to face during the limited campus meetings required in the program, about four times per semester. “We shared pictures of our kids and we text each other often. They’ve become lifelong friends to me now.”

In addition to her classmates, Ann was impressed by the support she received and the lessons she learned from the faculty. “The very first day of class, Dr. Vivian Wright brought the medals in that we would receive at graduation. She let us hold them and then we had to give it back at the end, but it was very inspiring.”

Ann said her courses always seemed to be in tandem with one another even though the professors were from different colleges. “It always felt like they were working together, even though nursing and education are very different. The courses just built on each other so well.”

Ann Hagstrom at graduationAnn completed the program in May 2020 but commencement was delayed due to social distancing guidelines. She made the trip to Tuscaloosa one last time in August 2020 to participate in the rescheduled commencement. One of her four proud sons and his family also attended to see Ann, who they now affectionately call “Dr. Mom,” graduate from The University of Alabama. She hopes to one day help bring a similar interdisciplinary program to Texas Tech University for nurse educators.

“The EdD gave me a clearer perspective of education and how you help a student grow. It helps me think outside the box about how to present material, and it gave me confidence in my teaching as well as my work in admissions and retention. It’s really an all-encompassing program for nurse educators.”

Published: September 7th, 2020