Student Spotlight: Lori Gwinn

Lori Gwinn Sometimes life has a way of gently — or not so gently — nudging you toward a change. In April 2016, Lori Gwinn had worked as a school nurse at Clinton County R3 in Plattsburg, Missouri, for 13 years when she learned her position would soon be reduced to part-time due to budget cuts.

Lori hadn't planned on making a change; she imagined staying in her school nurse position until the time came to retire. She certainly hadn't planned on going back to school, but life throws you a few curveballs sometimes.

With an ADN earned in 1995, Lori knew that both her lack of a BSN degree and time out of the job market would limit her professional opportunities. So, at 46 years old, she decided to start a new chapter in her life and return to school to earn her BSN. That degree would provide new opportunities in management and education that were otherwise unavailable to her, as well as offer a better financial future for her family.

Lori considered traditional college options, but they didn't provide the flexibility that she needed with family and work obligations. A friend asked her if she had ever considered WGU. Lori called an enrollment counselor that day and was enrolled by that afternoon, beginning her journey with WGU in July 2016.

Lori chose WGU because of its flexibility and resources. “Everyone is so helpful,” she said. “There are so many resources available to help you succeed.” Describing WGU as a workable program, she appreciates the practical approach that they apply to teaching that is competency-based.

Now working as an RN MDS Coordinator for a long-term care facility, Lori has to balance her professional obligations with a busy family life. WGU allows her the schedule flexibility that she needs as she works her way toward a spring 2018 graduation date.

“WGU differs from traditional schools because I can work at my own pace,” Lori explained. Because she often works overtime and unpredictable hours, she needed to be able to complete her studies as time allowed and on her own schedule.

Not only does the flexibility at WGU set it apart from other universities, Lori feels encouraged to succeed by staff and student mentors. “They're invested in your success,” she said. “There's so much support at WGU. Nurses have such busy lives and there's a personal aspect with instructors here that you wouldn't have gotten at a regular school.”

With help lines available to assist students with course material and answer any questions, Lori feels these extra resources are really what set WGU apart. “They want you to succeed,” she said. “When I pass a class, I get a 'congratulations' email from the teacher. People are cheering for you, and that makes a big difference.”

For now, Lori enjoys imagining all that lies ahead, hoping to secure a job as a health coach, nurse educator or similar position after graduation.

And to think, it all began with a little life nudge.

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