Shawn Klabo was like any proud mother when she watched her daughter, Victoria, graduate with a bachelor's degree in finance from the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
Her heart swelled, her eyes watered, her hands clapped.
However, Klabo was also proud of herself for graduating from the Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing online program at UNCW on that same day in December 2017.
"My only regret was I chose not to walk," she said. "I bought the gown, but we didn't know when I made the decision if both graduations were going to be the same time of day, and I didn't want my graduation to eat up the whole day and take the focus off of Tory."
That didn't keep Klabo and her daughter from sharing a tremendous milestone achievement together.
"Sitting in that graduation, I watched all the nursing students graduate, then I watched her graduate," she said. "It would have been nice to have been down there with everyone. It was still pretty special."
Klabo, who is a registered nurse at CarolinaEast Medical Center in New Bern, enrolled in the online RN to BSN program shortly after Victoria started attending UNCW on campus.
"Our homework was very different, but we still did some homework together," she said. "Tory helped me with some of the referencing on my papers. The really funny thing was she worked part time in the College of Health and Human Services with my adviser.
"There was one session where I hadn't signed up for my classes yet because I was busy. She called me up and said, 'Mom, you really need to log on and sign up for your classes.' She thought it was funny that she could call me and remind me I needed to do something for school."
South to North Carolina
Klabo grew up in Racine, Wisconsin, and started college back home in a pre-med bachelor's degree program in hopes of becoming a physician assistant. But her husband, Troy, was on active duty in the Marine Corps for several years, so she had to put those plans on hold.
"We moved around a lot, which made it really tricky to get a bachelor's degree or have a career," she said. "Nursing is a flexible career you can do a lot with. When we moved to here, it was a lot closer for me to go to Craven Community College and get my Associate Degree in Nursing [ADN], but it was always my goal to get a bachelor's degree."
In 2012, Troy retired from the military, while Klabo graduated from her ADN program and went to work for CarolinaEast Medical Center. UNCW had a partnership with the hospital, so she knew a lot about the RN to BSN program before enrolling.
"It was helpful to have advisers who came in and were able to answer questions and give us information," Klabo said. "With my daughter going to UNCW, it was kind of nice. It's a great school, and I felt good about her going there. I liked supporting a school I felt good about."
The couple also have a son, Mark (20), who attends Appalachian State University, so the flexibility of the online format was a key factor in Klabo's return to college. The hospital where she works also has a tuition reimbursement program.
"It was very manageable," she said. "It worked out nicely because I could take my time. I took two 7-week sessions off throughout the program. At one point, my son graduated from high school and it was a crazy time."
Klabo will always cherish bonding with her daughter over UNCW and graduating on the same day.
"It was good for my kids to see me going back to school, in general, and pursuing the online bachelor's degree," she said. "It was also good for them to know there is such value in education, and for me to set a good example. My husband was very supportive and encouraged me to keep going, too."
Not only did Klabo learn a lot in the online RN to BSN program, she immediately landed her current associate manager position right after graduation. In fact, she was taking NSG 406: Leadership and Management in Nursing when she applied for the promotion.
"I had to write a post about what my focus and priorities are as a nurse," she said. "When they asked me the questions, I already had it figured out in my head. It was perfect preparation for the interview because I already knew the information. That was the most helpful course."
Klabo believes that staying focused is the biggest key to success in the online RN to BSN program.
"My advice is to not let it overwhelm you," she said. "Seven weeks is seven weeks. You can get through it. It really goes fast. It went much faster than I thought it would. The faculty was good about answering questions quickly. I never had issues.
"All of the instructors were very approachable. My adviser, Rebecca Hardy, was very helpful. When I called her, it was never like she did not have time to speak with me."
With college in the rearview mirror, Victoria married on June 1, 2019, when Klabo had her heart swell, her eyes water and her hands clap all over again. The mother-daughter duo will also soon be neighbors, so they won't need to go far to reminisce about their college days.
"Tory graduated with her bachelor's degree in three-and-a-half years and has done great," she said. "She just started a job at the Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point. I was in the program two years. I took my time.
"There is value in doing the RN to BSN program online. It gives you a lot of explanation and background of why we do the things that we do. It also gives you a more balanced, well-rounded look at nursing as a profession."
Not to mention a very special memory.Learn more about the UNCW online RN to BSN program.
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