When Connor Hagarty was a high school student, his mother was diagnosed with colon cancer. Watching the nurses who helped her during that time inspired him.
“The experience was really traumatic and hard on me, but it gave me a clear sense that nursing is what I want to do with my life,” he said.
Hagarty is now a sophomore nursing major, after transferring to Viterbo University from a nursing school in Minnesota. At the other school, he was one of hundreds of students competing to get into a limited number of places in a nursing program.
“At Viterbo, there’s not that feeling of competition because professors are really willing to help you,” he said.
There’s a feeling of community, of working together, that Hagarty said makes Viterbo a place he feels supported individually and also part of something bigger.
“No one wanted to study together at my old school because of the competitive culture," he said. "At Viterbo I have many people that I study with, even non-nursing majors, because everyone wants to help everybody else be a better person,” he said.
Hagarty is from Winona, Minn., and also is taking a minor in music. He plays the flute at mass on campus on weekends and is part of the Honors Program at Viterbo. One of the things he noticed right away about the university, was an emphasis on supporting students individually, inside and outside of the classroom.
“Right on day one, professors will tell you that your own health and well-being is very important to them, just as much as your academic success, and you are given many resources to better yourself physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally,” he said.
In the classroom, participation in discussions is encouraged, and Hagarty said he feels able to raise his hand without judgement to ask questions and participate.
“Professors take the time to get to know you, to meet with you," he said. "They don’t just see you as another number or name on the page,” he said.
As an example of the diversity of experiences available to students at Viterbo, Hagarty mentions two research projects he’s worked on as part of the Honors Program.
For one of the projects as part of his theology class, he completed a research project on religious art.
“The entire semester-long project was fascinating from start to end. I initiated the research because of my personal interest, and I was supported by the professor the entire time," he said. "It allowed for me to discover more about the topic and also myself, as well as my religion and spirituality."
For a separate class, he and another honors student developed a lecture on poverty.
“We talked about stereotypes surrounding poverty and what we can do to fight those, and we looked at the psychology of wealth,” he said.
Also, as part of the Honors Program, he’s taking part in an Exploring Leadership class, with weekly seminars on what it means to be a leader, and a retreat planned in the fall for incoming first-year honor students.
Hagarty accepted a summer internship at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., which he is ecstatic about. He’s not sure what kind of nursing career he wants, but he’s certain that Viterbo is getting him ready not just to earn a college degree, but to be a better person.
“Viterbo is making me think deeper, it’s preparing me to be an ethical human in the world, how to be a good person, not only a good student, and I don’t think I could get that experience at many other universities,” he said.