Brianna Hudson, Senior, English and Writing

Ever since she was young, Emily Balliviero knew that she wanted to be a nurse.

As a child with health conditions of her own, Emily experienced the care of supportive healthcare workers who taught her that the issues she battled didn’t define her. Growing up, Emily admired those people who made her feel so comfortable and safe. When she began thinking seriously about her future, she knew that pediatrics was where she wanted to be.

By the end of her high school career, Emily had a choice to make. She was sure she wanted to study nursing, but she also loved playing sports and had been very involved in athletics growing up. She knew she still wanted to play volleyball in college, so she decided that any university she considered would need to offer both nursing and volleyball.

student at graduationEmily would be the first to tell you that when she was first looking into OKWU, she was not all that focused on spiritual aspects. Instead, she saw an opportunity to pursue her passion for both volleyball and nursing. But when she first came for a campus visit and got to sit in on a chapel service, she felt the Lord grant her peace, and she knew OKWU was where she wanted to be. 

Over her years here, she came to realize what a blessing it was to listen to the Lord’s prompting. She was able to grow in her personal faith and calling to follow the Lord. And not only this, but she came to understand her role in the nursing world as well.

 “I don’t think I would be the nurse I am without those trialsthey’ve helped me become a better nurse than I would have been without them.” 

“Nursing is definitely a calling,” Emily said. She knows now that the job gives her the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ. Another lesson she learned? It isn’t for the faint of heart. In fact, in Emily’s sophomore year, she failed out of the School of Nursing. She began questioning everything during that time: her abilities, her purpose, and her dream.

Looking back, she’s especially thankful for OKWU’s nursing professors, remembering a specific conversation with Dr. Jessica Johnson, Dean of the department. “Is nursing what you want to do?” Johnson asked bluntly. When Emily said yes, Dr. Johnson, with cheerful determination, replied, “Then let’s do this!”

She helped Emily without judgment, and together they worked out a plan of action. Eventually, Emily was able to reenter the Nursing Program.

With the benefit of hindsight, Emily is grateful for that failure. “I don’t think I would be the nurse I am without those trials,” she said. “They’ve helped me become a better nurse than I would have been without them.” 

student with letterboard

Emily graduated in 2021, beginning her nursing career this fall.


And now, thanks to her incredible professors and opportunities afforded her in OKWU’s Nursing Program, Emily works as an RNI Resident at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. She would not have gotten there without the hands-on training she received at OKWU.

“There were so many learning opportunities at OKWU,” she said, reflecting on how she made it to where she is now. “We were always encouraged to sign up for externships and CNA positions.”

Without the real-world application of her instruction, especially during simulation lab, Emily is doubtful she would have had the confidence she needed to enter the professional nursing world. OKWU gave her the space to learn, grow, and be corrected in a safe, supportive environment.

And now, out in the professional world, she is able to hold her own—learning, thriving, making connections, and participating in the healing of her patients, just as she always dreamed. 

Interested in learning more about OKWU’s School of Nursing? Our four programs help nurses throughout all levels of the profession. Get more information here.

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