Future nurse embraces nontraditional approach to education, opportunities to explore global perspective

Contact: Zinta Aistars

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—When Emma Simpson found herself twiddling her thumbs in class after finishing her work, she wondered what more she could do to expand her knowledge of the world.

“I’ve been homeschooled since eighth grade,” Simpson says. “I just seemed to have too much free time after finishing my schoolwork in public school. I wanted to pick my own classes and follow my own interests. I wanted more hands-on experiences and to learn more about history, literature, biology.”

One of Simpson’s interests as a child was to read a series of Little Golden Books about a character called Nurse Nancy. From there, her passion for nursing grew.

A portrait of  in front of a lake.

Emma Simpson

“It was probably around third grade that my dad let me help remove stitches from a cut he had,” Simpson laughs. “And I wanted to be a nurse ever since.”

When it came time to choose a higher education institution, Simpson knew exactly what she wanted. The Bronson School of Nursing at Western Michigan University was the right fit.

On top of the small class sizes and interdisciplinary learning, Simpson is most attracted to the school’s holistic approach, treating patients as whole people. She’s also excited about the experiential learning the nursing program offers, including the school’s connection to two major hospital systems in Kalamazoo. On campus, students can participate in virtual reality labs, challenging simulated clinical cases and practice skills using the latest in technology in nursing labs in the College of Health and Human Services.

“There’s so much to learn and I love the hands-on approach,” Simpson says.

As a high-performing student with a strong GPA, she has also been accepted into the Lee Honors College. It’s home to more than 2,000 students completing programs in seven of Western’s academic colleges, offering curricular and extra-curricular opportunities to expand the educational experience.

“During homeschool, I was able to take dual-enrollment community college courses, virtual courses and co-op classes with other homeschool students,” Simpson says. “That gave me a head start on exploring my interests and earning college course credits, and I’m so grateful Western accepted that. The honors college even awarded me a scholarship!”

Simpson was delighted when she visited campus for a tour and felt accepted despite her nontraditional approach to education.

“Everyone made me feel so welcome,” she says. “Western was an easy pick for me. … But I also did my research to compare schools. Western has so many opportunities, so many different programs, yet still has that community feeling I want.”

In the days before classes begin, however, Simpson is taking the opportunity to travel.

“Another part of my homeschooling experience was that my family hosted exchange students,” Simpson says. “We had a student living with us from Italy, and through her, I met other exchange students from other countries. It’s been such a great experience. Because of that, I learned some Italian, some Spanish and I want to learn more German.”

Invited to spend time with her new Italian friend in her home country, Simpson is spending the last weeks of her summer in Italy and Germany, exploring other cultures and taking in new vistas.

“I’ll be staying at home during my freshman year as we will be hosting another exchange student, this time from Germany,” she says. “I love learning about how others live and seeing new places. That’s why I am also interested in the study abroad programs at Western. I believe learning about people in other countries and cultures will make me a better nurse here at home. It will help me understand people from all kinds of backgrounds.”

To read more about student experiences, visit First-Year Faces.