Commencement Student Speaker Encourages Others to Embrace Change
Kim Ruengert was nervous about going back to school after 20 years, but says it was one of the most rewarding decisions of her life. Now, as the Bellevue University 2021 Spring Commencement Student Speaker, she’s encouraging fellow graduates and guests to take a chance on change. Though most of us are comfortable where we are, taking on new things shows what we can be capable of, she says. Ruengert is an example of this herself, working as a medical professional during the pandemic, while also earning her Master of Health Administration (MHA).
Going Back to College
After graduating from high school, Ruengert earned her bachelor’s degree in biology, followed by a bachelor’s degree in medical technology. Since then, she’s worked in hospital laboratories, working her way up to her current position as a laboratory manager at Memorial Community Hospital and Health System in Blair, Neb. Still, she felt something was missing. Continuing her education was the answer -- more specifically, continuing her education at Bellevue University.
“I had been contemplating going back to school to further my education and enhance my career. The opportunity presented itself when my employer promoted its partnership with Bellevue University,” she said. “I went to their website to see what they had to offer. They had two different degree programs that would work with my work and life schedule; the timing was perfect, and I knew it was meant to be.”
Earning a Master’s Degree, Working in Healthcare During a Pandemic
Ruengert completed her master’s degree online. “My experience could not have gone any smoother!” she said. “I was able to correspond with my instructors and classmates easily. The instructors for the MHA program wanted the students to succeed and provided feedback, as necessary.”
In the midst of the pandemic, she was able to continue her program without skipping a beat.
“Earning my degree during the pandemic was a blessing in disguise,” Ruengert said. “Since all my classes were already online, the pandemic allowed me to focus more on my studies. Everything was closed, and staying home to do classwork was easier to prioritize.”
COVID-19 also brought Ruengert invaluable experiences in her professional life. “We had to revamp how we cared for patients, making sure everyone was kept safe,” she said. “At times it was stressful, and we worked tirelessly to provide the necessary care to patients. It was a dramatic and continuously changing environment. The facility that I work at did an exceptional job to address our community's needs and keep the organization functioning.”
Though balancing work and school was at times challenging, Ruengert said shuffling her focus for a short time was worth it.
“The program lasted only 18 months, and my family and friends understood that work and school were my priorities during that time. They were very supportive of my decision to go back to school,” she said. “It was a small sacrifice to concentrate on school for the ultimate goal of earning a master's degree.
Looking Forward to the Future
A master’s degree is just the beginning of Ruengert’s efforts to seek out new challenges, starting with speaking at commencement. Program Director Dr. Mike Freel nominated her for the role.
“It was completely unexpected and an honor to be considered for such a grand opportunity,” she said. “Public speaking is outside my comfort zone, but I couldn't let my fears hold me back.”
In addition to inspiring others with her speech, she’s spreading the word about the benefits of the Bellevue University MHA program.
“I have already recommended the MHA program to one of my peers,” she said. “The cohort program was very well structured and well-paced for anyone who is working full time, raising a family and advancing their education. The tuition cost is reasonable, and reimbursement through my organization’s partnership with the University minimizes the out-of-pocket cost for a degree.”
Ruengert is looking forward to how her master’s degree will help her continue on her current career path.
“I already hold a management position at my healthcare organization, and the MHA degree enhances my knowledge, skills and abilities so I can contribute more to administration,” she said.
With a little more time available after graduating and with pandemic restrictions eased, she’s also looking forward to getting back to bowling, knitting, camping, and riding her motorcycle.
Click here to view her student speaker speech from commencement.