Oklahoma Higher Education Campus E-Clips sponsored by the Communicators Council

February 2013

OSU-OKC Student Discovers Confidence, Passion in Higher Education


OSU-OKC advisor Kenneth Chapman and student Heather McElwain.

OSU-OKC student Heather McElwain credits academic advisor Kenneth Chapman with helping lead her on a successful higher education path.

To many adults, the idea of returning to school is difficult with numerous obstacles to overcome. For Heather McElwain, a 38-year-old single mother and OSU-Oklahoma City student, those hindrances turned into opportunities that are now making her lifelong dream of becoming a nurse into a reality.

As someone who hadn’t been to school in 20 years, McElwain worried about beginning the coursework to become a nurse. She often questioned herself but found encouragement in being a good example for her 18-year-old son.

Luckily, her path crossed with OSU-OKC Academic Advisor Kenneth Chapman who she says helped her get started on the right path.

“I probably would have turned around and left if I had not had him as an advisor,” McElwain says. “He made it easy, and he’s always been there.”

Truly determined, McElwain took 12 hours her first semester and made straight As, which led to her being inducted into Phi Theta Kappa, OSU-OKC’s honor society. Her academic success also led to her relationship with her mother being rekindled.

“[My mother] worked in the medical field for years,” McElwain says. “She’s extremely proud and can’t wait for me to graduate.”

Chapman, who has believed in her from the beginning, has been moved by McElwain’s story both on an academic level as well as on a personal level.

“What encouraged me the most is when I attended the Phi Theta Kappa induction and Heather’s mother said, ‘Thank you for helping my daughter make her decisions for school and helping her stay on track,’” Chapman says. “That resonated with me because we see so many students… but this is personal.”
Through her higher education, McElwain has a new sense of confidence in and out of the classroom. She feels that even though she is older than many of the students, she can keep up just as well as anyone else.

“A lot of times I feel like their mother,” she says. “But I really like it. I have made some great friends here. They are great people.”

In addition to confidence, McElwain also has plenty of advice for others considering returning to college.
“Some of my friends are going back to school now. It’s neat to watch my age group say, ‘Hey, I can take a class,’” she says.

Chapman, who is continuing to help McElwain meet her academic goals, believes her story proves there is no dream one can’t accomplish with hard work and perseverance.

“She believed in herself,” Chapman says. “And, if you believe in yourself, you can do anything. You don’t need anyone else’s support to do it. I am just glad to be a part of it.”

McElwain plans to apply to OSU-OKC’s nurse science program in the fall and is currently enrolled in six hours.

“I’m a normal person who is doing this,” McElwain explains, “and if I can do it, anybody else can.”

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