Wichita State senior a role model for returning students
Wichita State University senior Kimberlee Mann knows a thing or two about life’s challenges, but she also knows about overcoming them to achieve her dream: a college education. Mann is a 56-year-old mother of five. She’s had many reasons to think about going back to school over the years, but the one that motivated her to do it was personal and tragic.
“I lost a niece,” said Mann. “She was very young, and it had a lot to do with health care policies. If she’d had insurance and received the medical care she needed, she would not be dead today. That’s why I came to Wichita State. I want to change things.”
Mann is originally from Overland Park, Kan., but she’s lived in Hutchinson for the past four years. She has worked providing health care since she was 16 and in 1994 became a Licensed Nurse Practitioner (LPN). She said she thought about going on to become an RN, but the circumstances of her life were a more immediate challenge.
“I always wanted to get a degree, but unfortunately I did things in the wrong order,” she said. “I got married, had kids and then decided to go to school. Then I got divorced and became a single mother.”
It’s because of her past struggles and the loss of her niece that Mann has shifted her focus from nursing to promoting health and wellness. She is studying communication and health care management and, when she graduates this spring, hopes to work in a hospital or clinic’s communication department.
“I love educating people,” said Mann. “I like working with patients, and I like giving presentations and working with the public. That’s why I decided communication was the best area for me. Getting the health care management under my belt and understanding how the health care systems work, that allows me to really help people.”
Mann had plenty of options when she decided to make the investment in her education, but she chose Wichita State. The thing that sealed the deal was Phil Ladwig, an academic adviser in the Liberal Arts Advising Center. Ladwig took the time to understand her unique needs and helped customize a bachelor of general studies degree that met them.
“Phil helped me see that what I needed was to fill my toolbox,” Mann said. “I had professional experience, but I was behind on technology and other skills. So I focused on classes that I knew would help in my career.”
In her time at WSU, Mann said she learned a lot about health and nutrition, social media, multimedia technologies and communication practices.
“I was doing everything the old way,” she said. “If you’re an older person in the workforce and you want to see any kind of upward mobility, you have got to get updated and know what’s going on. You can’t live in the dark ages and say, ‘Oh, that’s for the young kids,’ because you’re competing with the young kids. Wichita State helped update my skills, especially the Elliott School.”
The Elliott School of Communication is where Mann studied a lot of her core subjects, and she said that the school’s focus on experience-based learning really made a difference.
“The Elliott School gave me hands-on experience,” said Mann. “The classes are geared towards a client-project model, and the instructors bring expertise from the real world, not from a book. They give us good information and feedback and guidance to succeed in our own careers.”
One of the instructors who made an impression on Mann was Amy DeVault, associate professor at the Elliott School.
“Like many non-traditional students, Kim approaches classes and coursework with purpose,” said DeVault. “I teach classes that require heavy use of technology. Sometimes this intimidates older students who are not digital natives. Kim took a deep breath and jumped in. She knew she needed to learn those skills, so she did. I appreciate her perseverance and determination.”
Mann’s can-do attitude has kept her focused on her goal, which is finally in sight with one semester to go. She’s remarried now, with a supportive husband. Both he, her two children and all three of his kids have college degrees.
Now, Mann says, it’s her turn.