From cancer victims to Alzheimer’s patients, Bluefield College alumna Courtney Robertson Tucker (’10) is surrounded by people who need critical care. As a hospice nurse, she travels to patients’ homes and has long conversations about their conditions and the important decisions they need to make regarding the inevitable final days of life.
Oftentimes her patients share they only want to be comfortable. Others wish to enjoy some of the simple activities of life – the beach, a movie or fishing – while some hope to fulfill longtime goals or dreams. And while not an easy job, but one with tremendous value, Tucker and her team of nurses, social workers, chaplains, volunteers and aides associated with Liberty Home Care and Hospice in Danville, Virginia, work to make those wishes come true. And because of their efforts, patients are able to travel to dream destinations, restore relationships with family and friends, and fulfill a number of other worthwhile wishes.
Tucker is quick to give credit for the work she’s able to do to Bluefield College. She said her BC experience – the long hours studying for exams and completing research projects, being challenged to think critically, and the practical knowledge she gained from internships – prepared her to be the hospice nurse she is today.
“I distinctly remember one assignment to formulate a mission statement for our lives,” recalled Robertson, who earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from BC in 2010. “It is still a driving part of my spiritual, academic, professional and personal life: ‘Above all, I will translate my caring spirit as I seek to provide psychosocial interventions to patients and families as I long to draw others to the Kingdom of God.’ I want that to be my legacy, and I’m grateful for the time taken by professors to not just teach me material from a textbook, but to make the material come to life.”
Tucker said she realized Bluefield College was the place she could grow both academically and spiritually when she witnessed while visiting campus how welcoming the students were and how caring and genuine the professors were. She said she firmly believes the small class sizes and quality professors contributed to accomplishing her goals and helping her get to where she is today.
“Bluefield offers something that’s hard to find – a Christ-centered education with small class sizes,” said Tucker, who also serves on the BC Alumni Association’s Board of Directors. “I never once doubted that my degree was equivalent to that of someone who graduated from a big or more well-known institution. I am grateful for all that Bluefield had to offer, not just academically, but with all of the extra-curricular activities I was involved in on campus.”
And while Tucker, who is also a child life specialist, works only with adults in hospice care, she said she hopes to one day provide services to the pediatric population. That, she said, “is one thing that I dream of creating – child and adolescent hospice services, especially in places that do not have them.”
However, Tucker is just one of many BC psychology graduates making a difference as a result of their Bluefield College experience. Katie Warren Waugh graduated from BC in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and went on to earn a master’s degree in mental health counseling from Gardner-Webb University.
“If you are or were a psychology major, then you know that it was a pretty demanding major, and the professors expect nearly perfection,” said Waugh. “When I went to graduate school, it was a breeze because of the level of learning and application I was used to at Bluefield College.”
Now, Waugh is a counselor at Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston Salem, North Carolina, where she also serves as an instructor in the Human Services program.
“There is no average day for me,” said Waugh. “One of the things I like the most about working here is there is so much variety in what I do. One day I could be advising students who want to transfer to a four-year university, the next I could be counseling an individual in a crisis situation, or doing new student orientation, or leading a training or presentation. There is so much versatility.”
It was Bluefield, Waugh said, that prepared her to think more critically about situations, interact with people, and integrate her faith into the workplace.
“Bluefield prepared me to have professional success, but more importantly it prepared me to have personal success,” she said. “The professors push you academically, but they push you even more spiritually. They encourage you to grow deeper in your faith, and they show examples of how to do that in their own personal lives”
One professor in particular, Waugh said – Dr. Robert Boozer, professor and chair of the Department of Psychology – was the most influential. He set the bar for a department of professors who care about their students’ success, both professionally and personally. It’s a mentorship, she added, that lasts well beyond graduation.
“Those that stay the entire four years, we get to know them really, really well,” said Dr. Boozer about the closeness of the student-professor relationship at BC. “And we get an opportunity to talk about ‘what is your passion in life’ and ‘what it is you want to do’ and we talk about this thing called ‘calling’ quite a bit and the response to the needs of the world and the things that give you joy.”
Dr. Boozer said the psychology program develops within students a broad-based appreciation for the multiple perspectives currently active in the discipline. He said it also helps prepare students for graduate study. In short, he added, the psychology major “enables students to pursue their dreams through the behavioral sciences.”
“I cannot think of a student who has graduated from this program since I’ve been here that desired to get into a graduate program and did not,” said Dr. Boozer. “Those who wanted to go on to grad school have been able to do that, and they have been successful. Got a lot of alumni that have a master’s degree in their hands now, and a few of them are working on their doctorate, while many others are already making a difference and fulfilling their calling in the workforce.”