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Students in field

Harmon coming back to Finlandia as alumni speaker

April 25, 2018

For more than 30 years Kathleen Harmon (’86) has been an innovative leader in the nursing field, a story thousands of alumni and friends of the university read about in the school’s magazine, the Bridge, last fall. Now, she’ll be sharing that story with the Class of 2018 as the Alumni Speaker for this weekend’s commencement ceremony.

“I am honored to be back on campus, back home in the U.P., and participate in the excitement of graduation weekend,” Harmon said.

Harmon has been back to campus several times since graduating, including taking the five Finnish exchange students she hosted for a tour, but coming back to talk to the graduating class is a special honor.

“The first thing that came to my mind when thinking about this weekend is the memory of my own graduation, the feeling of achievement, accomplishment and pride,” she said. “My message to these graduates is to rely on the strong foundation received here at Finlandia during the exciting, yet challenging transition into their profession. This foundation will serve them well and will be a constant springboard for ongoing success.”

Harmon said she remembers that first nursing job as if it were yesterday, especially how quickly her excitement of graduation changed to the reality of nursing care. The transition was stressful and at times she questioned her career choice, but knew she was well prepared for the challenges ahead and relied on her Finlandia foundation. “I started that job with three nurses that graduated from large universities, and after my first year none of them remained,” she said. “Nursing is difficult, but the confidence I had from graduating from Finlandia is what got me through that year. I’ve relied heavily on the foundation received here; education, experience, and sisu throughout my career”

Kathleen Harmon’s Nursing Career

Harmon has led an incredible nursing career that has ranged from 15 years working in a metro Detroit emergency/trauma department to nearly a decade working in nursing informatics and analytics. She currently serves as the Chief Nurse Executive of Sphere3, a consulting firm that utilizes patient data to provide insights into caregiver workload, patient satisfaction, and safety. In total she has 32 years of experience in the nursing industry that includes a broad clinical and leadership background.

She isn’t the only nurse who will be speaking during the graduation ceremony. The Student Representative, Melissa Helppi, is graduating from the university’s College of Health Sciences with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

“The greatest lesson my dad, a pure Finn, taught me is that when the going gets tough, the tough get tougher,” she said. “Having two nurses up on stage representing our industry is telling. Nursing is tough and requires knowledge, passion and grit. I’ve been doing this for 32 years, and it means the world to me to be on stage with someone who will be carrying the torch forward.

Learn more about Graduation Day 2018, and read a bio of Kathleen Harmon by visiting finlandia.edu/graduation.

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