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WGU Graduate Speaker, Cora Edwards, Winter 2013
WGU Graduate Speaker, Cora Edwards, Winter 2013
Western Governors University
<p>Cora Edwards of Tampa, Florida, shares her funny and touching story of moving to the United States from England with dreams of making it big - and then realizing that dream by earning her MSN-Leadership and Management degree online at Western Governors University. Cora was a speaker at WGU's winter 2013 commencement ceremony in Atlanta, Philips Arena, February 9, 2013.</p> <p>Cora Edwards earned her Master of Science, Nursing - Leadership and Management degree.</p> <p>Transcription of video:</p> <p>Good morning everybody. I arrived in the United States in 1991 at 24 years of age from the United Kingdom with my four year old daughter Jade in tow. I landed in New York City at JFK Airport and it was only then that I realized that the only thing I had in common with the inhabitants of the United States was the English language, and at times that was somewhat questionable.</p> <p>My journey was not ending in this vast airport, but just beginning, as I had to board a small charter jet to Burlington, Vermont, and onward to Plattsburgh, New York, my new home. My husband was in the United States Airforce, and a native of St. Louis, Missouri. And he served as my American tour guide at times, especially in the grocery food store.</p> <p>I remember my first night in Plattsburgh after that marathon journey, we went on excursion to the grocery store to find tea bags and any familiar English food. I was not impressed. I really couldn't understand the concept of iced tea. Why not hot tea? With only the equivalent of a high school diploma, and now another baby on the way, I had to figure out my destiny in this country.</p> <p>My United States orientation was also acquired through countless hours of documentaries, and biographical specials, and yes, I admit it, talk shows. You see, the weather in this small town was brutally cold and my British coat that I presumed adequate was not meeting the task as the wind cut right through me. I found refuge in the Airforce base library on many cold days and would wander the aisles and explored careers in education systems in the United States.</p> <p>Alas my days did not only consist of reading and exploring, my husband and I had a family to feed, and furniture to buy. I had to get a job and the local diner that was situated outside of the base met the following requirements: No daycare, and minimal commute, as my driving was still a work in progress, and the constant snow that greeted me didn't help. You see, Plattsburgh was known to have two seasons: Winter and winter is coming.</p> <p>My job at the diner consisted of filling and decorating doughnuts that numbered at times in the hundreds, and times I believe thousands. My shift was from one in the morning until six a.m., and it was during this time, in a cold and damp kitchen, I would fantasize and wonder about my future. Could I really become anything I wanted to be if I had the right education? What could I become in this great country? Were those television shows, documentaries and historical accounts of people becoming successful and pursuing their dreams true? I toiled away, filling doughnuts every night for a year, listening to a beat up radio playing old country songs. My toes would be cold, my fingers numb, but this experience drove me harder to pursue my dreams. The more I helped customers in the diner, the more I realized I would be a great nurse.</p> <p>There was no settling in Plattsburgh, we remained there for 18 months, and what would follow would be a series of relocations to other Airforce bases in different states that made my educational pursuit harder and harder. Finally I completed my nursing degree in 1996 and so began a career that I would truly excel in and devote myself to the pursuit of excellence. Every hurdle I met with each move involved the continual accrual of experience and education that reached a pivotal moment after I achieved my bachelor's degree in nursing in 2006.</p> <p>It was my graduation and I looked across the aisle at the master degree candidates who were wearing their robes with their striking color. This could never be me, I thought. They're so smart, I could never obtain that. But then I discovered Western Governors University and for the first time I counted myself among one of the prospective candidates to obtain my master's degree in nursing. The moment that this became a reality was the day I completed my capstone oral defense in mid September of 2012. I eagerly awaited my results and obsessively checked my email for the notification.</p> <p>At last I got my Task Stream notification of evaluation. There it was. I was now a masters prepared nurse. I'd done it. Through countless hours of hard work, and at times isolation from friends and family, Western Governors University prepared me to meet this tremendous chapter in my life. I could now become part of the future of nursing and have a credible voice. This degree had made my earlier struggles in my life all worthwhile, and I took a deep breath and whispered to myself, "Cora Edwards, MSN, RN, CCRN."</p> <p>I looked at my family as they were sitting enjoying a movie, and I told them, "I did it! I have my master degree, I'm done!" They roared with excitement. All the years of hard work paid off. After completing countless night shift, driving long distances, having two additional children, becoming a certified nurse, and experiencing numerous relocations that the Airforce required of my husband, I had done it.</p> <p>However, this goal was not possible without the constant support of my husband, Bam, my children, Jade, [Inaudible]. And the various mentors at WGU, specifically Sue Hunter and Brenda Luther. It always seemed like they was always someone available to help when I became overwhelmed with course content, and they were always consistent in the same beliefs in my ability, even when at times I'd lost it in myself.</p> <p>WGU has made me into a truly capable candidate for a masters prepared nursing role and I recently realized that this metamorphosis had in fact occurred after I recently interviewed for a new position at a local facility. The interview process included a presentation to the senior leadership team, and I would also have to repeat this same presentation to a panel of my potential peers. I was able to perform this presentation with confidence and prowess. I didn't just recite this material, I understood it. My confidence soared through the interview as I presented myself as what I was: A sound, professional candidate that was indeed an ideal fit for the position.</p> <p>Every course and semester at WGU had prepared me to meet these challenges that I now part of my career. I am forever humbled and grateful for the journey that I've experienced and would not change any part of the process it involved. I now have the ability to read and comprehend a research article without any difficulty, all because of WGU.</p> <p>The WGU nursing faculty has prepared me for this new journey into a changing health care domain, and I truly feel ready to meet the trials that I may face with the ability to exact any change through research and dedication. Now if I could do anything, I would go back in time and give the younger English Cora the following advice: Number one, buy a warmer coat. Number two, iced tea in comparison to hot tea isn't as appalling as you think. And most importantly, keep filling the doughnuts because the future will be brighter and never stop believing that you can become anything in this great country. Thank you.</p> <p>[Applause]</p>
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