Not all students experience Hesston College in the same way.

Though many students come to Hesston fresh out of high school, on their own for the first time and still exploring career options, some students come later in life – looking for a career change or with a very specific goal in mind. That was the case for May Stallings ’98, who attended Hesston College as a nontraditional student in the nursing program. Now, 13 years later, her daughter Jessica is following in her footsteps. A first-year student on the three-year nursing track, Jessica’s Hesston Experience comes at a different point in life than her mother’s, but their shared experiences help them to understand the other’s journey.

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Why did you decide to study nursing at Hesston College?

I was working as a CNA and a friend convinced me to go back to school to get a nursing degree. I chose Hesston because I heard it was a good program. I liked the small classes and approachable instructors. I was actually a person instead of a number.

Jessica and May Stallings. Photo by Rachel Schlegel

Jessica '14 and May '98 Stallings. Photo by Rachel Schlegel

Tell us about your career.

Shortly after graduating from Hesston and passing my boards, I got a job working in medical-surgical at Via Christi – St. Francis Hospital. I worked there for two and a half years and really enjoyed it. My children were young and I wanted more flexibility and time to be with my family, so I moved to a position as the Maternal and Child Health Coordinator with the McPherson (Kan.) County Health Department. I coordinate the Maternal and Infant Program, perform health assessments, give immunizations and work in the Women’s Health Clinic.

How were you challenged by the nursing program?

I took some of my prerequisite classes through area community colleges, and the classes I took at Hesston were more challenging. Hesston nursing students do clinical rotations throughout the entirety of the program, which at the time was not the case at other two-year nursing programs, so I felt more prepared than some of my counterparts once I got a job.

How was your experience as a nontraditional student different from a traditional student’s experience?

It was difficult to be a college student and care for a young family. I sometimes felt like I wasn’t able to give my children the necessary attention. My second child was born while I was still in school. He was born on a Friday, and I was back in class on Monday. He came to school with me for six weeks because I just felt like it was important for me to be there and working hard. I never felt like I was treated differently because I was a nontraditional student. Professors and students alike were very accepting. People are friendly and respectful to one another. It was an awesome experience.

Which instructors had an influence on you?

All of my nursing instructors were wonderful. I appreciated that I could drop by instructors’ offices anytime I had a problem or question to get help or encouragement. I also really enjoyed Biblical Literature with Marion Bontrager.

What is it like to see your daughter following in your footsteps?

I am so proud Jessica is at Hesston. Hearing about her experiences in the dorms and with friends makes me wish I would have gone to Hesston right out of high school. I am excited to see her having wonderful experiences and know she is getting a quality education.

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