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Nursing Grad Excels With Delicate Balancing Act

RADFORD -- For the last four years, senior Amanda Stafford has worn many hats—top flight nursing student, honored ROTC cadet, active sorority member and academic achiever. She now can add Radford University graduate to her growing resume.

“A lot of people get to school thinking they're going to do something, but as they get involved in college they start to stray away from their original plan,” said the Richmond native. “I'm proud to say I came to school knowing what I wanted to do, and now I can almost say I have accomplished all my goals -- becoming an officer in the Nursing Corps.”

Never one to sit behind a desk all day, Stafford said nursing seemed like a perfect fit, matching her chosen field with her natural energy and compassion.

Amanda Stafford“The biggest thing that really started me being interested in nursing was that I always had a tendency to help my friends,” she said. “I had a friend, who had surgery in high school, and I was helping her for awhile, and everyone was always telling me I’d be a great nurse.”

Funny how much a person can change in four years, according to Stafford, reflecting on how as a young, self-conscious freshman she had no interest whatsoever in even joining the Radford ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) with its acclaimed nursing program.

“My dad mentioned it, and I was like, 'No, I’m not doing this. There’s no way you can make me do this,’” she said. “I wanted nothing to do with it. I’m a girly girl, and this wasn’t me, and not something I wanted to do.”

Born in West Point, N.Y., Stafford said her father, a retired Army Reservist lieutenant colonel, urged her to just try ROTC out, and if she didn’t like it, she wouldn’t have to continue. Turns out, she loved it, and wouldn’t trade her memories and experiences for anything.

“I think the thing I’ve loved the most about doing ROTC is the people,” she said. “They’ve always been there for me. It’s such a good friendship, and I couldn’t have asked for better friends.”

After receiving a scholarship from the ROTC, Stafford spread her social wings into the Greek Life, pledging Alpha Sigma Alpha (ASA) in the spring 2007 semester of her freshman year.

“I remember telling my dad back then, ‘Fine, dad, if I have to join ROTC, then I’m joining a sorority too,’” she laughed.

Stafford, who is also a member of Rho Lambda national sorority leadership recognition society, has never viewed her increased responsibilities as a burden, but rather an opportunity.

“I was really involved in high school, and I saw sorority as a way of getting involved on campus and meeting new people,” she said. “I knew ASA was right for me because during rush, the girls were so supportive of me being in ROTC.”

Juggling sorority obligations, ROTC duties and the ever-increasing academic and nursing workload often posed a daunting challenge, Stafford admits, but the key was simply learning how to take personal inventory of her valuable time.

“I made lots of lists, and kept a very strict agenda,” said Stafford. “It can get overwhelming at times, but I found it easier just to write everything down that I needed to get done and just cross it off as I went. That helped me to prioritize my responsibilities.”

Stafford is a shining example of how maintaining a winning attitude and a clear focus on your goals can help you achieve anything, said her former Pharmacology Professor Anthony Ramsey.

“Amanda has overcome many different obstacles throughout her college career, but I have never heard Amanda complain about the intense workload she has carried,” said Ramsey. “She maintains a warm smile, even when experiencing a tremendous amount of stress. Her ability to embrace a problem head-on will serve her and the patients she cares for very well. I am very proud of all of our nursing graduates, and Amanda is a shining example of how our students emerge to become excellent care providers and nursing leaders.”

Spinning dozens of plates in the air at once, Stafford cherishes those rare times when she can take a moment to unwind and appreciate where she is and who she is with.

“Nothing makes me happier than being outside! I love to go hiking, take walks, playing sports—anything, as long as I'm outside!,” she said. “Having a nice glass of wine and swinging on my front porch with my roommates is always nice too.”

As she looks back at her time at Radford, Stafford said the idea of being commissioned, graduating and leaving the place she’s called home for four years still hasn’t quite sunk in.

“It may not even hit me until I'm at home and next August rolls around and I'm not going back,” she said. “Goodbyes are always hard, but exciting at the same time because it means another chapter of my life is about to begin. Besides, for those who matter the most, it isn't goodbye, it's see you later!”

Ramsey is confident Stafford’s dedicated service to her work and community will prove to be both a tribute to her country and a fine addition to the proud Radford University alumni.

“I hope that Amanda continues to strive for excellence in everything she undertakes,” he said. “The strong work ethic and commitment to serving others Amanda developed here at RU will be a solid foundation for building a career as an Army nurse. It is an honor to call Amanda a RU School of Nursing alumna.”

Over the coming months, Stafford plans to “study like crazy” for her nursing boards, and then patiently await her orders from the Army.

“I hope by this time next year I will have settled into my new life in Texas,” she said of her immediate post and training. And where does she see herself being years down the road? For now, Stafford is happy just taking it one step at a time, enjoying all that life has to offer.

“Five years from now?” she paused. “You'll have to ask me then!”

May 6, 2010
Keith Hagarty (khagarty@radford.edu; 540-831-7749)

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