Graduate Student Experiential Learning

By Mindy Longhurst

maren with students on boatGraduate student, Maren Topham and assistant teaching professor, Daphne Thomas with undergraduate students in Tonga. Image courtesy of Topham.

The College of Nursing undergraduates participate in a Public and Global Health study abroad during the spring of their senior year. This experience allows them to learn more about a different culture and study nursing techniques from other parts of the world. In some instances, a graduate student will come and be a mentor figure for the undergraduate students. With the help of a Graduate Mentoring Assistance Grant, graduate student Maren Topham was able to mentor others in the Kingdom of Tonga this past spring.

teaching childrenTeaching Tongan children about hygiene. Image courtesy of Topham.

Topham was able to supervise some of the clinical rotations, teach the undergraduate students and supervise the work with the nurses in Tonga. The purpose of the public and global health clinical is to be completely submerged in another culture. Topham says, “In nursing you take care of a variety of people. I learned valuable lessons that will help me with my career. We had many different cultural experiences. We wanted to learn about how they view family, healthcare and religion.”

blood pressureA nursing student taking someone’s blood pressure. Image courtesy of Topham.

Assistant teaching professor, Daphne Thomas, was able to accompany Topham. It was exciting for Thomas to see Topham mentoring others. Thomas expounds, “Maren was a role model for the undergraduate students! You get to build a relationship with students that you can’t get anywhere else.” A nursing student explains, “I think having a graduate student enhanced our experience because we could have an example of applying the classroom to ‘real life’. We try to do that as nursing students, but we do not yet have that experience! It was great to see how Maren brought education and application together!”

peopleNursing students in Tonga. Image courtesy of Topham.

The experiences and events that they had in Tonga will help everyone to become more loving and compassionate nurses. While in Tonga, they were able to learn more about rheumatic fever and heart disease. This disease in more common in Tonga and is usually a result of untreated strep throat that negatively effects the heart valves. The students were able to learn from the nurses in Tonga about how they treat rheumatic fever and they discussed the ways that it is treated in the United States. Topham loves to be able to learn more about how other countries perform healthcare and how others learn.

weavingA nursing student learning how to weave a rug. Image courtesy of Topham.

The Graduate Mentoring Assistance Grant is given to a certain number of graduate students throughout the university who will be using the funds for experiential learning. This type of learning includes having experiences that help graduate students mentor undergraduate students. With this grant, her whole time in Tonga was financed. The grant even allowed them to be able to have transportation to go into more communities, learning more about the Tongan culture and healthcare system. The experiential learning program allowed Topham to have a life changing experience.

pretty tongaThe beauty of Tonga. Image courtesy of Topham.

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