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College of Nursing

MSC09 5350
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131

Phone: 1-800-690-0934

Recent UNM College of Nursing graduate proves it's never too late to make a change.

June 4, 2013

New Directions

Recent UNM College of Nursing graduate proves it’s never too late to make a change.

By Lauren Lewis

Ryan Harris at Graduation

It’s graduation day for the UNM College of Nursing Class of 2013 and Ryan Harris has been elected by his classmates to be their class speaker.

Harris is greeted with cheers and applause as he walks to the podium. Judging by the warm reception, Harris has made a positive impact on his fellow classmates and professors during his time at UNM.

The road to this point was not always easy, though. When the idea of going back to school came up, Harris never thought he would take nursing school by storm the way he did. The only thing he knew, at the time, was that he needed to make a change. 

Turning Point

Considered a non-traditional student at 32, Harris was following a different path before he decided to apply for nursing school.

Like a lot of people, Harris went straight to college after high school, but struggled since he didn’t know what he wanted to pursue. With little academic direction, Harris left college to work full time instead.

Harris worked at Starbucks and for America Online. He was even a dispatcher for the Albuquerque and UNM Police Department. These were all just jobs for Harris, though, never a passion, and that didn’t sit well with him.

Although Harris wasn’t satisfied, he wasn’t quite sure what direction to take until an unfortunate family incident opened his eyes to the possibilities.

“The tipping point for me was when my nephew was born,” said Harris. “He was born six weeks premature and was in the NICU. The doctors were telling us the whole time that he was probably not going to make it.”

After a particularly hard day at the hospital, Harris left to take a brief break. When he returned, Harris saw his brother sitting in the hallway crying.

“My brother is a big guy, and there was this nurse who was really short compared to my brother, tiny thing,” said Harris. “She was embracing him. Seeing that embrace and the impact it made on my brother, I knew that I needed to be able to provide that for somebody.”

Moving Forward

During his speech at graduation, Harris admitted that nursing school was a struggle for him at times, but knew that his hard work would pay off in the end.

“You have to really know you want to do it,” said Harris. “You have to be dedicated to studying, be committed and know that’s what you want to do.”

Harris proved that going back to school wasn’t just a means to an end for him. He really immersed himself in the program and excelled beyond expectations.

In the end, his hard work did pay off. Harris graduated with honors and received the Nursing Leadership Award and the very first Dean’s Distinguished Student Award.

Harris is now at UNM Hospital in the Nurse Residency Program and is well on his way to creating the career he always wanted.

For more information on the UNM College of Nursing, visit http://nursing.unm.edu/.