On April 30, graduating University of Arizona College of Nursing BSN student Allison Meaux was honored by the UA Honors College with a coveted Pillars of Excellence Award. The annual awards ceremony is a celebration of the academic excellence demonstrated by faculty, scholars and students of the Honors College. Clinical Assistant Professor Melissa Goldsmith, PhD, RNC, nominated Meaux because of her creative Honors thesis, her strong work ethic and her ever-present positive attitude. “Allison is an outstanding student who has received numerous acknowledgements for her academic success, including Academic Distinction and being on the Dean’s List,” says Dr. Goldsmith. “She has balanced being an excellent student, with work and leadership activities.”
Although she is busy with her final days of school, Meaux, who graduates on May 8, took the time to share her thoughts about her time at UA Nursing and her hopes for the future.
Why did you choose a career in nursing?
I got into nursing in a roundabout way. When I started at the UA, I spent my first year as an undecided major. The second year I did a year of the veterinary science program. After doing some shadowing of veterinarians, I found that I liked connecting with people a little bit more. I decided to look more into the human-medicine side of things. I talked to some other health professionals in the career and ended up choosing nursing because it gave me the most flexibility in terms of being a well-rounded provider for health care. The ability to be able to switch specialties and gain experience in a lot of different disciplines really appealed to me.
“Allison is an outstanding student who has received numerous acknowledgements for her academic success, including Academic Distinction and being on the Dean's list." ~ Melissa Goldsmith, PhD, RNC, Clinical Assistant Professor
What features of the UA Nursing BSN program do you like most?
Being able to have close relationships with the faculty has been super meaningful to me. They’ve been very encouraging as I pursue extra activities and have been great about linking me to other people, either within the community or within the college of nursing itself. Having that networking ability and getting connected with the community has been invaluable.
Can you tell us about Dr. Goldsmith’s mentorship?
She has been a constant encouragement in terms of not being afraid to recommend me to going back to school eventually in the career. A lot of people go through nursing school with the idea that we have to have our careers in the hospital. I want to start off in a hospital setting, but eventually I’d like to go back for my psych and mental health NP and maybe do equine therapy as part of my practice. Dr. Goldsmith has been very encouraging in terms of helping me move forward with those pursuits.
How did your academic focus/research interests lead to your WIN poster presentation?
The poster presentation is my honors thesis, ‘Best Practices in Equine-Assisted Therapies for At-Risk Youth.’ It examines best-practice recommendations for the equine-assisted therapy for at-risk youth clients. In other words, determining if an at-risk youth would be a good candidate for an equine-assisted therapy program, and then when looking at programs, how you decide when a program would be valid and credible to recommend a client to.
Why choose to focus on at-risk youth?
I’ve always had a passion and interest in at-risk youth. I just felt drawn to the population. When I first started nursing school, I thought I was going to be an ICU nurse, and then get my CRNA. But as I was going through my studies I discovered that I really wanted to combine my interest in equine therapy with the at-risk youth population. A lot of good that can be done there. Sometimes they’re a forgotten-about population because people say, ‘Kids will be kids and they’ll grow out of it,’ but there’s a definite need in terms of catering to this population and their mental health care needs.
What does the future hold for you after graduation?
This summer, I accepted a position as a camp nurse for two months in Northern Wisconsin. We’re an all-girls camp. That’ll be really fun. I’ll do that while I’m studying for my NCLEX, getting ready to test. I haven’t nailed down my first real job yet, so I’m still applying to places and interviewing. I’m possibly looking into a big pediatric hospital but really just trying to get my medical nursing feet under me before I move on to specialize in child/adolescent mental health.
What does it mean to you to receive the Pillars of Excellence award?
I’m still kind of in shock that I’ve even gotten this award. I feel like I’ve just kind of been doing my thing. When you think of successful people in the world, I don’t really consider myself to have reached that point yet. But receiving this award has caused me to have this moment of reflection, to look back on my college career and think, ‘Oh, wow. I have actually done quite a number of things.’ It’s kind of cool to see that all culminate.