It was just four years ago when Carrie Pope ’10, then a student in the Mennonite College of Nursing, made the trek up to Rochester, Minnesota, for a summer internship at the prestigious Mayo Clinic.

Today, Pope is a full-time member of the Mayo family as a staff nurse and charge nurse on the floor where she interned, even supervising her own intern. Pope is thriving at Mayo, one of the most respected medical institutions in the country, thanks in large part to the education she received at Mennonite College of Nursing (MCN).

“I’ve been really able to explain things to patients on their level,” Pope told STATEside. “That’s very much something that started at Mennonite.”

Pope plans to join other Illinois State alumni living in Minnesota at an Alumni Association reception June 5 in Minneapolis, where MCN Dean Janet Krejci will be the featured speaker. Pope got to know Krejci and MCN faculty members as a student leader, serving as treasurer of the Student Nurses Association her senior year.

Pope says that it was one of her first MCN teachers, Instructional Assistant Professor Gail Petro, who perhaps made the greatest impact on her approach to nursing. Petro was tough, Pope says, and demanded that her students were prepared to answer their patients’ questions—so that they never responded with an “I don’t know, I’m just a nurse.” That’s not enough, she learned.

They’re asking questions because they’re scared.

“They’re not gonna remember me because I came in and gave them Tylenol,” Pope said. “They’ll remember me when I came in for 20 minutes and explained what we just did for them and what it means for their life.”

Why she chose ISU

Pope enjoyed biology and anatomy as a kid and considered nursing programs at several different Illinois colleges. She chose Illinois State, in part, because it gave her just enough distance from home to spur independence—and because it isn’t a ghost town on the weekends, like some other campuses.

She did the Mayo internship the summer between her junior and senior years. Even then, she could tell the Mayo experience was unique. Once, while helping a patient during her internship, she couldn’t remember a medical term from class (“cardio jejunostomy”) and had to Google it. The first result was an article written by the doctor who was treating that very patient.

“You can’t say that happens very often,” Pope said.

Before her Mayo internship, Pope worked at an emergency room in the Chicagoland area as a “half-secretary, half-patient transporter.” She was struck by how inefficiently the hospital functioned.

Everything runs much smoother at Mayo, said Pope, who’s now a staff and charge nurse in a general surgery unit in the Francis Building, part of Saint Marys Hospital in the Mayo complex. If a doctor wants to send one of Pope’s patients for an X-Ray, she preps the patient for an escort who picks them up and drops them off. Unlike that ER, she doesn’t need to micro-manage each step of the process or grease the wheels.

“It’s things like that that definitely set us apart,” Pope said.

Illinois State alumni from all colleges are invited to the June 5 reception at the Pracna on Main Historic Dining Saloon. Register online by May 31 or call Alumni Relations at (309) 438-2586.

Ryan Denham can be reached at