Hometown: Brookfield, Connecticut
WCSU Degree: Bachelor of Science in Nursing
Activities: Sigma Theta Tau International, Kappa Alpha Chapter; organize/volunteer at various Sigma Theta Tau events; avid long-distance runner who will complete ninth marathon (26.2 miles) at the Coastal Delaware Running Festival on May 3, 2015; completed the JFK 50 mile race in November 2013 & November 2014; has run for charity at different events in the area; and full-time Unit Coordinator/Patient Care Technician on Orthopedic/Neurosurgery/Trauma Unit at Danbury Hospital
Honors and Awards: Dean’s List; graduating summa cum laude with a 4.0 GPA; Dr. Joseph B. Cherry Nursing Scholarship, 2012-13; Frances Weigler Memorial Nursing Scholarship, 2013-14; New Beginnings Nursing Scholarship, 2013-14, 2014-15; Jane C. Thompson Nursing Award, 2015
After graduating from Immaculate High School in Danbury in 2005, Dennis Fitzgerald Jr. went to Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to pursue a degree in Civil Engineering. After his freshman year, he worked as a civil engineering intern at GeoDesign, Inc. in Middlebury. "I realized that I did not enjoy engineering, so I elected to take a year off from college to work and decide on my future," he says.
Fitzgerald enrolled at WCSU in fall 2007 as a psychology major, but eventually changed his major to history after the first semester. "I was so impressed with the teaching and wisdom of Adjunct Professor Dr. Timothy Tuttle and discovered a love for history. I graduated summa cum laude in May 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts in History and had plans to pursue a career in teaching. My senior thesis was published in Clio, WCSU’s student-run history journal. I enrolled in an independent study graduate course in spring 2011 and served as a graduate assistant under Dr. Leslie Lindenauer for History 148: American History to 1877."
A job at Danbury Hospital fostered his passion for working with patients, so Fitzgerald decided to enroll as a pre-nursing major in spring 2012 and was accepted into the nursing program later that semester. He came back to WCSU because of "my previous experience with the excellent faculty in the History Department, the engaging classes, the level of comfort I had with the institution, its location and the strong reputation of the nursing program," he says. "Working at Danbury Hospital has afforded me the opportunity to work alongside registered nurses and with various other health care professionals. Most influential of all has been my time spent caring for patients at the bedside and in an administrative fashion, helping them to recover from major surgery and attain an optimum level of health. There is almost no parallel to the feeling I get when I make patients smile or improve their day by simply being there. I have an undying fascination with medicine and science and enjoy applying it to enhance a person’s well-being."
Fitzgerald says he was heavily influenced by Professor of Nursing Dr. Daryle Brown during his second course of study at Western. "In my opinion, her qualities represent the ideals of nursing as she displays the core values of the profession in both the academic and clinical environment," he says. "Her attitude suggests that she truly cares for her students and seeks to mold us into nurses that generously care for patients, utilize evidence-based practice and operate with ethical integrity. It was Dr. Brown’s high expectations and rigorous commitment to excellence that motivated me to put forth my best effort in both the classroom and clinical settings."
Asked what he will remember most about his Western experience, Fitzgerald says, "One of my most memorable experiences occurred in the wake of immense tragedy. I was taking one of my final exams on the morning of December 14, 2012, when the atrocities at Sandy Hook Elementary School occurred. Some members of the WCSU community were directly affected and the outpouring of support from faculty and students truly inspired me. There are many children in my life that I hold very close to my heart and I remember feeling incredibly sad and angry that day. It was impressive to see everybody come together in the wake of an unspeakable act."
After graduation, Fitzgerald says, "I plan on passing the NCLEX-RN exam to obtain my nursing license and hope to work on a medical-surgical unit at Danbury Hospital. I would like to pursue advanced nursing degree(s) in the future and may consider working as both a clinician and a teacher. In the meantime, I would like to gain experience as a registered nurse and enjoy time with my wife and children as we watch our family grow."
Fitzgerald’s advice to new students entering WCSU is: “Do not be afraid to aim high and set lofty goals, but make sure to pursue something you love. It is ok to change your mind once, twice, or even 10 times as long as you put forth your best effort. Make connections whenever you can and use your unique characteristics to your advantage. Believe in yourself and spend time enjoying the people and things you love.”