June 15, 2009 — The University of Virginia's 2009 Final Exercises were a family affair for Mary Beth White-Comstock and Haley Russell, but not in the traditional sense. The mother-daughter pair both walked the Lawn to receive their bachelor of science in nursing degrees.
White-Comstock said she has always wanted to further her education, but was never in a position to take action until a few years ago.
"The motivation was always there and one day my husband asked, 'What is standing in your way?'" That turned out to be just the extra push she needed to enroll in U.Va.'s RN-to-BSN program.
Russell had slightly different inspiration, although it also came from a family member. When she was a high school sophomore, Russell's grandfather died, and that experience triggered her interest in health care. She observed the difference nurses make every day, which solidified her decision to enroll in the traditional BSN program at U.Va.
"My mom was a nurse while I was growing up, which also had an influence," she said. "I am glad I chose nursing at U.Va. I am always going to have a job and it is very hands on and technical, which I enjoy."
Both White-Comstock and Russell enjoyed the experience of going to school together, mainly because it allowed them to see each other more often. Though their class schedules never overlapped, they shared their experiences and information about the professors and what to expect from certain classes.
"It was funny at times," White-Comstock said. "One time Haley came with me to get my picture taken for an I.D. badge and they directed their questions to Haley because they assumed she was the new student."
Russell had completed two years at U.Va. before her mother enrolled. "I'm happy for her. She has always wanted to go back to school," Russell said.
With their degrees in hand, their paths will diverge yet again. White-Comstock will continue her full-time employment at the Virginia Department of Health while furthering her education at U.Va. to receive her master's degree in community and public health leadership. Russell will commence her nursing career at Lynchburg General Hospital with the hope of returning to U.Va. in a few years to pursue a Ph.D. or doctor of nursing practice degree to move toward her goal of becoming a family nurse practitioner.