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Achieving a Balance

Nancy Kauppila, Class of 2008 Valedictorian

from the summer-fall 2008 issue of the Bridge

N. Kauppila ArticleIt wasn't until her youngest daughter was four years old that Nancy Lynn Kauppila decided she wanted to study nursing. She was 34 and had been a full-time mom for many years.

When she began working part-time at the Apostolic Lutheran Home for the Aged, Calumet, Kauppila attended an in-service program about hospice care. "This area of work fascinated me," she said. "That's when I decided to go into nursing with an end goal of becoming a hospice nurse."

Nancy Kauppila, Calumet, is valedictorian of the Finlandia University Class of 2008. She earned a cumulative GPA of 3.99 and has been a leader and mentor among her fellow classmates. This spring she completed Finlandia's recently established RN-to- BSN program.

Kauppila's April 27 Commencement speech began with the German proverb, "Never give advice unless asked." And, as Valedictorian, Kauppila was asked. In sharing thoughts about what guided her as she completed her BSN at Finlandia, Kauppila hoped to help her fellow graduates achieve a balance between career and personal life.

"So, fellow graduates," Kauppila said, "My advice to you is: number one, start small looking one step at a time; number two, have a goal in the end, but also have little goals on the way; number three, don't bite off more than you can chew; number four, do your best in everything you attempt; and number five, never stop learning."

Without question, it has been challenging for Kauppila to juggle family and work responsibilities, not to mention find time for relaxation. "I would say the most challenging part of it all was just staying afloat when I had to log 160 clinical hours in a semester, as well as do homework and work 40 hours a week."

Kauppila didn't have the grand goal of completing a BSN when she started at Finlandia in 2002. "I just picked away at it one semester at a time," she explains. "I made it work and didn't collapse in the process. My husband and children have been the most patient, especially as I chose homework over housework all of the time."

"College is not your entire life while you are going," Kauppila advised. "Neither is your career. Family is extremely important, as well as rest and relaxation. It is not always easy, but one must make time for the things that feel good: sing, play with your children, family, friends, read a good book, soak up the precious sunshine that comes our way."

Now 40, Kauppila earned an associate degree in nursing (ADN) at Finlandia in 2005. "As I was studying for my associate degree, I had the long-term goal of continuing on for my bachelor's," Kauppila said. "The staff in the Nursing department helped me to fill any holes in my schedule to include classes I would need should I decide to go on with my education. This kept me on track with a smaller, attainable goal of the two year degree, while at the same time creeping towards the larger goal of the four year degree."

For now, Kauppila says she'll continue her long term care nursing work at Portage Pointe, where she has worked since 2006.

"I'm thinking about going on for my masters degree to become a family nurse practitioner," she adds. "But I may wait a year, as I am exhausted!"

Kauppila and her husband of 24 years, Stuart, have seven children ages 11 to 23. She sings with the Keweenaw Ecumenical Choir, took part in the Calumet Player's "The Sound of Music" last fall, and for many years was involved in the Girl Scouts.

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