Senior nursing major Thomas Huisman’s commitment to scholarship and service
If you’re starting to feel stressed out with the semester in full swing, you’d do well to make friends with a nursing student. Maybe it’s the confidence that comes from a program that empowers its students and provides them with the tools necessary to succeed on the job. Or maybe it’s the endurance that comes from hours of practice in keeping a needle steady.
“I’m very calm in the face of stress and chaos,” said Mennonite College of Nursing’s (MCN) Thomas Huisman, who was just named an ISU 2019–2020 Bone Scholar. As a senior nursing student, Thomas is completing a Spanish minor while also working three jobs and volunteering within the Bloomington-Normal community.
Thomas has provided outreach and hospitality to prospective students and families as both an admissions tour guide and preview guide, as well as in his role as a facility manager at Campus Recreation. He has a knack for making tough situations lighter, which proves valuable in caring for patients and supporting others in his community. He has also served as a note-taker for students with accommodations and has volunteered as a Curb Bird and language partner. Underneath all of these hats—from lifeguard duty to riding along with a local police officer—the common thread you’ll find is Thomas’s desire to empathize and connect with others.
That’s why Thomas values long-term commitments over one-time volunteer tasks. “If I’m going to do something, I’m going to continue to do it,” said Thomas. When asked how he balances so many commitments, he shrugs and leans back comfortably. “It’s about the work you’re willing to put in.” It’s that work—as well as his commitment to scholarship and service—that led to being named a Bone Scholar, Illinois State University’s highest undergraduate recognition.
For Thomas, the path to nursing was laid out by his desire to find a fulfilling career that allows him to give back. He found inspiration from the many nurses in his family such as his aunt, Patricia Haberkorn (née Franey), who earned a Certificate of Nursing from MCN in 1983 and then returned to earn her MSN in Nursing Systems Administration in 2007.
“Nursing is a noble profession with a lot of room to grow both personally and professionally,” she said. “I knew that MCN would have a lot of opportunities.”
In clinical, he realized for himself how true his aunt’s stories of MCN were: the name “Mennonite College of Nursing” carries a legacy of quality and care. “When you say you’re from MCN, nurses and hospital staff immediately think kindly of you,” said Thomas. “Of course, you have to show up and live up to those expectations. But I like to push myself like that.”
Despite the demanding schedule of a nursing student, Thomas also chose to add a Spanish minor. Having enjoyed it in high school, he knew that Spanish language skills would be valuable in communicating with patients.
It has already come in handy, too. Recently, he spent his summer abroad in Panama as part of MCN’s transcultural nursing experience, gaining valuable experience in applying his Spanish language skills while caring for patients. He says, “Being able to serve these communities made me see how practical and transferrable nursing is.”
Back home at ISU, he has been volunteering at the Community Health Care Clinic since junior year, doing data entry and admitting patients—primarily those speaking Spanish. “It has proven useful when communicating with patients. I’m better able to help, especially for an increasingly diverse patient population,” Thomas said. “And the families are so appreciative. Really, the patients are why I keep going back.”
As Thomas finishes up his senior year and looks ahead to the next chapter of his journey, we know that no matter which direction he goes, Thomas is going to make an impact. Judy Neubrander, Dean of the Mennonite College of Nursing, said it best: “We are so proud of Thomas, who obviously cares so much about succeeding academically, but also impacting the world around him.”
And in the end, that’s what it’s all about here at MCN: changing the world, one exceptionally well-prepared nurse at a time.