Graduates in the Spotlight

Joanne Lee

Image of Joanne MarquesHOMETOWN: Naugatuck, Connecticut

MAJOR: Nursing

WCSU DEGREE: Bachelor of Science in Nursing

ACTIVITIES: Participated in Muddy Chuck Challenge (2017)

INTERNSHIPS: Clinical experiences with Vitas Hospice and St. Mary’s Hospital, a member of Trinity Health Of New England

HONORS AND AWARDS: Graduating Magna Cum Laude, cumulative 3.83 GPA, Sigma Theta Tau member (2018), National Society of Leadership and Success member (2017)



Joanne Lee’s path to obtaining a bachelor’s degree in nursing from WestConn started, strangely enough, in a culinary arts program in high school. “I attended W.F Kaynor Regional Vocational Technical High School specializing in the Culinary Arts program,” she explains. “I graduated in 1997 and started working full time as a dietary aide at St. Mary’s Hospital and I attended Post University taking general studies classes for about two years. With a friend’s encouragement, I went to Naugatuck Valley Community College (NVCC) for placement testing and started attending classes in 2001. I graduated NVCC with my associate degree in 2005. Working full time, it took me four years to get my degree at NVCC. After graduation, I entered the RN to BSN program offered in Waterbury by WestConn in 2006.

“As a full-time nurse, I would take one or two classes a semester,” she says. “As I became busier in my career, I began taking breaks from classes. After about a six-year break, I knew that I had to finish what I started and return to complete my degree. I reapplied and now I find myself weeks away from graduating.”

Lee believes that working in a hospital environment is what got her interested in the medical field. “Many of my fellow dietary aides were advancing their education and becoming nurse’s aides, so I did the same. I worked in the kitchen for two years and then was hired as a Patient Care Assistant on one of the inpatient units. My love for patient care and my desire to do more and learn more made the decision to go on for nursing easy. I believe that my six years as a nurse’s aide provided me experiences that all nursing students should have as a prerequisite to nursing. I developed comfort at the bedside, providing care to patients, which was beneficial when I transitioned into my nursing role.”

The reasons she came to WCSU for her BSN are several: “WestConn’s nursing program being located in Waterbury was the main attraction for me,” she says. “In addition to the fact that they have one of the best nursing programs in Connecticut, the location was perfect; the campus at NVCC is close to my hometown and place of work. I am proud to have attended one of Connecticut’s state universities.”

Lee says she has persevered because friends and co-workers encouraged and mentored her throughout her career. “They pushed me because they knew that I had more to give and coached me to apply myself.”

Asked what she will remember most about her WestConn experience, Lee says, “My Sigma Theta Tau induction and participating in the Muddy Chuck Challenge in 2017.”

After graduation, Lee says she plans to go on for her master’s in nursing. “I’m currently contemplating my path. The two programs I am interested in are nurse informatics or clinical nurse leader.”

Her advice to new students entering WCSU is: “To the young freshman student: Make education your No.1 priority now. Stay determined and focused. No matter how hard it seems, you can push through it. Life will present you with many tasks and responsibilities, so stay focused and life will not seem so difficult later on.

“To the adult students: You have already made a positive step toward your future and goals by going back to school. My B.S. in Nursing has taken me more than 13 years to obtain, so it is NEVER too late. I knew that in order to grow within my profession and organization that I needed to further my education. Knowledge is power and I feel that advancing my education has improved my ability to coach, mentor and lead future nurses.

“To all: Surround yourself with positive role models and mentors. When times get rough, they can provide you with words and advice to get you through anything.”