BSN@Home helps 55-year-old student earn her nursing degree

JoAnn Brink, BSN@Home graduate

In December, JoAnn Brink earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, an effort that required 20 years and help from the online BSN@Home program.

“If you know me at all, I fight, I claw,” says Brink, 55. “There was no way I was not going to finish that degree.”

Brink had earned a two-year associate degree in nursing from Madison Area Technical College in 1997 but was determined to continue her education.

“I love to learn, and I felt the four-year degree would make me a more well-rounded person,” she says.

Brink squeezed in courses wherever she could while working full time. She took them at night and on Saturdays as well as online through BSN@Home, a flexible bachelor’s degree-completion program in which busy registered nurses can learn at their own pace.

Her head held high

Brink loved being a student, though she doesn’t sugarcoat it. She took off a couple of years to have a baby, then a couple more to rebound from a divorce.

“It was hard, and I never thought it would take this long,” she says. “It seemed like every roadblock in life that could be thrown in front of me was.”

Brink earned the honor of being the flag bearer for the School of Nursing during the opening procession at UW–Madison’s 2018 winter commencement ceremony.

“JoAnn has been a part of the School of Nursing longer than most of us who work here,” says Karen Mittelstadt, assistant dean for academic affairs. “It is highly unusual to take quite that long to graduate, and yet everyone who knew JoAnn also knew she had the tenacity to finish. She is a wonderful example for her classmates and a great choice to represent the school.”

Commencement day was emotional for Brink, who says she walked across the stage—among much younger students—“with my head held high.”

For more information about BSN@Home, see the program webpage.