Meet the We of Now We Fly cover

Meet the We of Now We Fly

By Kristen Walsh

Regis Today Spring 2020

President Antoinette M. Hays, PhD, RN, has called the Now We Fly Campaign “revolutionary,” not only because of its ambitious $40 million goal, but because of the opportunities that the campaign would provide for the collective “we.”

Behind every scholarship and financial aid award, behind every new building, lab, and campus gathering space, are the faces of those who were given the resources to soar to new heights thanks to incredible donor support.

On the heels of a successful campaign, it’s time to “meet the we” of Now We Fly. Because the campaign was fully comprehensive, every single member of the Regis community reaped the benefits of the campaign’s success. Read on for a glimpse into just a handful of the stories that represent the great impact of Now We Fly.

Cassandra Godzik BSN ’15, MSN ’16

Assistant Dean of Online Nursing

Hometown: Rutland, Vermont; Scholarships: Mary Jane England ’59, MD President Emerita Scholarship; Photo: Holly Redmond

Cassandra Godzik, BSN ’15, MSN ’16, PhD, APRN, PMHNP-BC, CNE, was the first in her family to earn a master’s degree and a doctoral degree. And the Mary Jane England ’59, MD President Emerita Scholarship helped her achieve that.

“My family and I felt supported by Regis,” Godzik recalls. “As a Mary Jane England scholar, it was nice to be recognized as a strong and involved student from the perspective of the scholarship selection committee and administration.”

Now she sees the impact of scholarships through a different lens. As assistant dean of online nursing at Regis, Godzik works with graduate students participating in the graduate assistantship program, which provides tuition assistance but also opens up opportunities for students to work alongside Regis faculty members. She also had the opportunity to travel to Argentina with students in 2019 through an exchange program, which she says was a great experience outside of the classroom that builds perspective and helps students be more open-minded.

“My most important goal as an educator is to help encourage students to learn about all that is possible,” Godzik says. “There are no limits for nursing students and I’m hoping that I can continue to be a mentor for my students.”

She recalls her own Regis mentor: Young School of Nursing Dean Diane Welsh, DNP, APRN, CNE. The pair met while Godzik was completing bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing and working as a graduate assistant. “Diane encouraged me to pursue a PhD in nursing, which I completed in 2020. Without her mentorship, I’m not certain I would have gotten to where I am today as a nurse educator and nurse scientist.”

Godzik has also found inspiration from her scholarship donor, former Regis President Mary Jane England ’59, MD. “Dr. England practiced as a psychiatrist all while continuing to pursue higher education administration and teaching. She proved it is possible not only to do both patient care practice and administration and education, but that it can be done while excelling in those roles.”

Godzik aims to do the same for her students. “A lot of times we imagine practicing as nurses at the bedside or in a health care provider office; whereas in reality, there are so many different avenues to pursue—nurse educator, nurse leader, or researcher, for example. I like helping students recognize the possibilities.”

Gracie Jarest ’21

Major: Nursing; Hometown: Wrentham, Massachusetts

Gracie Jarest ’21 was in and out of hospitals as a child after she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age three. And she was 13 years old when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. But those challenges served as inspiration: The compassion of caregivers prompted her to pursue a nursing degree. Financial support from Regis allowed her to do that.Gracie Jarest ’21

“I chose Regis to pursue my education because of the great clinical placements and future job opportunities,” says Jarest, who worked in the oncology unit at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “I love being able to experience hands-on learning and seeing how many different hospitals and different specialties there are. But my favorite thing about the nursing program is the ability to help others and make a difference.”

The latter is strongly rooted in the university’s mission. “The Regis community has had a big impact on my evolution as a student. I have learned a lot about kindness and giving back. There are so many people who are so positive and uplifting, and they always look on the bright side.”

And it is not something she forgets once she leaves campus. A first-generation college student, Jarest aims to make her family proud and be a strong role model for her younger brother.

“When I am home or at work I often try to give back to others and help out with anything I can,” says Jarest. Her mother’s cancer is currently in remission. “Treating others with value and respect is something that will always serve me well. I just hope to make a difference in my patients’ lives as well as anyone else’s life.”

Jonathan D. Fitzgerald, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Humanities

Jonathan D. Fitzgerald, PhD head shot

Jonathan Fitzgerald, PhD, remembers his days as an undergraduate student—sitting down every semester to write thank you notes to people he would never meet, but who made his college education possible. “I was a first-generation college student and I benefited from the generous gifts of alumni and friends of the college that I attended.”

Today, the assistant professor of humanities at Regis sees students just like him. “While I don’t always know about the specific funding that my students receive, I understand the massive support system that makes it possible for them to succeed. From the scholarships that help with their tuition, to the opportunities they have to participate in internships and study abroad programs, I know my students are well supported.”

I believe that by sharing stories with my students—whether in history, religious studies, ethics, or literature and writing courses—I can help them become critical thinkers who are better informed and more empathetic. That’s what I’m about: building better humans.

Jonathan D. Fitzgerald

It may be one reason that this unofficial learning outcome—not listed on the syllabus—is paramount over all others: “To build better humans.” Though he says it “always evokes a nervous chuckle from the class,” it is not something he takes lightly.

“I believe that by sharing stories with my students—whether in history, religious studies, ethics, or literature and writing courses—I can help them become critical thinkers who are better informed and more empathetic. That’s what I’m about: building better humans.”

He does that by helping students find ways to apply what they learn in humanities courses to their own disciplines and majors. It is strongly tied in to the Regis mission as well.

“Even as Regis evolves, it is a place rooted in Catholic intellectual tradition and liberal arts, and I love to see students majoring in nursing or business or criminal justice come to understand how a grounding in the humanities will make them better at their future careers.”

Kamisha Coleman-Hoffman, RN, DNP ’21

Program: Doctor of Nursing Practice; Nurse Practitioner Family Track, Hometown: Swedesboro, New Jersey; Scholarship: DNP Nursing Scholarship

Kamisha Coleman-Hoffman, RN, DNP ’21 sets high standards for herself both personally and professionally. “I love the challenge of exceeding expectations, especially my own. I consider myself a lifelong student in the game of life.”

That philosophy is one reason she decided to enroll in the online doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program at Regis amid a successful 20-year nursing career. Leadership opportunities came early in her career, and she is now patient-flow manager in the operating room at Cooper University Hospital in Camden, New Jersey.

But Coleman-Hoffman’s successful “game of life” hasn’t come easily.

Receiving the DNP Scholarship has inspired me to continue to work hard, strive for excellence, and operate on an increasingly higher level.

Kamisha Coleman-Hoffman

“When I initially chose nursing, I was facing a very challenging time in my life—personal tragedy in the loss of my grandmother and baby sister, as well as financial difficulties and contemplating how to best support my family as a primary provider,” she recalls.

A nursing job was the answer; but it turned out to be much more than what she intended. “After becoming a nurse, I found it far more rewarding in terms of making a difference in people’s lives compared to what was offered in dollars and cents.”

Today, she is still pushing herself to exceed expectations. An advanced graduate degree in nursing, she says, will give her more credibility and flexibility to explore her options to become “a transformational figure” in whatever she does. And she thanks the transformational figures who are helping her get there.

“Receiving the DNP Scholarship has inspired me to continue to work hard, strive for excellence, and operate on an increasingly higher level. It also taught me that persistence is a key to success, and that there is tremendous value in seeking opportunity, even when the odds are against you.”

Her experience with the online DNP degree has pushed her farther than she imagined. “During the course of my time at Regis, I have evolved from the survival mode of ‘just getting through these classes and obtaining a degree’ to a genuine hunger and thirst for lifelong learning, and maximizing what I can extract from all of my life experiences to be able to make a difference in someone else’s life.”

Laura Kunz ’22

Major: Biology; Hometown: Wakefield, Massachusetts; Scholarship: Tower Scholarship

Laura Kunz ’22 is not one to wait for things to happen—and that includes something as significant as researching cancer treatments and potentially discovering a cure.

“When I found out my friend was diagnosed with stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, it was like a punch in the stomach,” she recalls of the devastating news she received in October 2018. “Nothing was working for her; she was about to start a new type of treatment when it went downhill and never came up. She died less than a year after her diagnosis.”

Kunz, who had discovered a passion for genetics and microbiology in high school, became focused on oncology genetics. She is a biology major at Regis and is excited about the independent study program and internship and job placement rate. But the chance to work in the university’s zebrafish lab—an on-campus facility that opened in 2018 thanks to support from Now We Fly campaign donors—quickly became an added bonus: Zebrafish is a species commonly used for cancer research.

“I don’t think I would have the same opportunities at a different school,” Kunz says. “The Tower Scholarship means everything to me and my family, and I truly appreciate the ability to go to my top school.”

The independent study during her first year exceeded expectations. In addition to hands-on teamwork in the lab, she was able to work closely with Assistant Professor of STEM Shannon Hogan, PhD, who also encouraged Kunz to present at several industry conferences.

“I presented three times by the end of my sophomore year, including once at Worcester Polytechnic Institute on virology curriculum development. This is so important to my future in the industry or when I apply to graduate school,” says Kunz, who is set to graduate early from Regis and eventually plans to complete a PhD in genetics. “Regis has allowed me to become more confident as a student and as a person, knowing that I can do anything that I set my mind to.”

Damarys Martinez, RN, CNL ’19

Program: Clinical Nurse Leader Online Master’s Program; Hometown: Bronx, New York; Scholarship: Mary Jane England ’59, MD President Emerita Scholarship

When Damarys Martinez, RN, CNL ’19 heard that her employer, Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, had partnered with Regis for an online clinical nurse leader graduate program, she says she was among the first to apply.

“I was so excited that Regis was offering a program that would allow me to pursue my passion for leadership and enhance my clinical skills to become a better teacher, mentor, and preceptor to build a safer and more advanced practice.”

But that degree would pose a challenge for Martinez, a single mother of two who was juggling studies with a rigorous work schedule that included overnight shifts as a charge nurse at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and part-time days as a visiting nurse at Ethos. The Mary Jane England ’59, MD President Emerita Scholarship changed that.

As a registered nurse I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I’m able to use my educational background to assist and advocate for my patients in the hospital and in the community.

Damarys Martinez

“The scholarship was life-changing for me and my family,” Martinez says. “I was able to work fewer hours and spend more time focusing on my studies and raising my kids.”

Martinez was born and raised in the Bronx, New York, one of five daughters whose mother emigrated from the Dominican Republic and worked hard to provide her family with the resources and education to be successful. It’s a lesson that Martinez has not forgotten.

“Education plays a vital role in shaping successful people because we learn how to meet and overcome challenges through education,” she says. “As a registered nurse I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I’m able to use my educational background to assist and advocate for my patients in the hospital and in the community.”

She hopes to someday start her own scholarship. “I strive to become a role model to single mothers who have given up on their dreams. I want to show them by example that anything is possible with hard work, diligence, and motivation.”

Nicholas Sahagian ’20

Major: Global Business Management; Hometown: Coral Springs, Florida; Scholarships: LLARC Sharing Opportunities Scholarship, Tower Scholarship

As a global business management major, Nicholas Sahagian ’20 knows about the power of a handshake. And shaking the hands of donors who helped fund his education is something he will never forget.

“It felt so nice to personally thank and shake hands with LLARC [Lifelong Learning at Regis College] members,” Sahagian says of attending a reception for the LLARC Sharing Opportunities Scholarship he received. “Their generous scholarship meant so much to me and my family. I was able to complete my junior year because of it.”

Born and raised in Coral Springs, Florida, Sahagian grew up with a set of values instilled by his parents: respect, common sense, and giving back. He says that Regis Professor of Accounting and Finance Christopher Kubik, DBA—who is also director of both the master’s in accounting program and certified financial planner program—reminds him of his parents.

“Professor Kubik’s teaching style is very real and sets you up for the real world,” Sahagian says. “He will not sugarcoat things when you are wrong; he will say you are wrong and help you figure out the correct answer. He has helped me grow both personally and professionally.”

Susan Kennedy ’81, director of the Regis Center for Internships and Career Development, helped him land an internship at Northwestern Mutual in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, as a licensed financial representative. For Sahagian, support from mentors, family, and friends, including girlfriend Desiree Jones, is what keeps him grounded and allows him to take flight. And he is committed to doing the same for others.

“I try to pay it forward, whether it’s helping my friends with schoolwork or teaching my younger teammates tactics to improve,” says Sahagian, who was captain of the Regis cross country and track teams. “If it was not for my high school and Regis, I would not be where I am today. In the future, I plan to give back to the scholarship fund and open up opportunities for someone else.”

Walt Horner

Dean of Students

Walt Horner head shot with an open book

Walt Horner grew up in the rust-belt city of Erie, Pennsylvania, the son of a social worker and a health educator. Though he says college wasn’t necessarily an option for many of his friends and extended family members, it was an expectation in his immediate family of six.

“My mother and father were first-generation college students, and from an early age they instilled in us that continuing our education was a privilege—an investment in our future—and that we needed to be equal contributors. That said, I was a Pell-grant kid and worked my way through college.”

Horner’s educational journey informs his current role as dean of students at Regis. Part of his job involves the Dear Neighbor Fund, created in 2010 in memory of longtime Vice President of Student Affairs Lynn Tripp Coleman ’77. The fund provides support for students in need and in financial or personal crisis, including the Hospitality Center, Emergency Assistance Program, and the Housing Program. And because the Now We Fly Campaign was fully comprehensive, any gifts to the Dear Neighbor Fund contributed to the success of the campaign.

“We rely on the Dear Neighbor Fund when all other options have been exhausted for students—whether it helps fund a new pair of eyeglasses, transportation to their first internship, books for the semester, or a winter coat—so they can focus on what’s most important, their Regis education,” Horner says. “In many cases, Regis is their home, their safe haven. It matters more to students than you can imagine.”

What also matters is the way that Horner works in partnership with students, faculty, and staff to “create a community that holds close the charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph.”

Horner, for example, has accompanied students on service-immersion trips to Peru and Puerto Rico and has seen the transformative effects. “Regis is not any university; it is one that asks us to move to the margins and serve the underserved, the dear neighbor. It compels us to welcome all, without distinction; and it requires that we focus on the formation of the whole person—the social, the intellectual, and the spiritual.”

Jacquelyn MacDonald PhD, BCBA-D, LABA

Assistant Dean of Behavior and Brain Sciences, Program Director of the ABA master’s program, Assistant Professor, Director of the Autism Center

Jacquelyn MacDonald three quarters shot

Jacquelyn MacDonald, PhD, BCBA-D, LABA, considers herself fortunate to see the Regis mission in action as she teaches students in the applied behavior analysis (ABA) master’s program and watches them apply their skills in the Autism Center at the Regis Children’s Center.

“Our mission aligns very closely to that of the Sisters of St. Joseph because as a field we teach our students to serve without distinction and to treat everyone with compassion,” says MacDonald, assistant dean of behavior and brain sciences, program director of the ABA master’s program, assistant professor, and director of the Autism Center.

For some of those students, putting the mission into action is made possible by tuition assistance: a research assistantship through the ABA program or a graduate assistantship working at the on-campus Autism Center.

Our mission aligns very closely to that of the Sisters of St. Joseph because as a field we teach our students to serve without distinction and to treat everyone with compassion.”

Jacquelyn MacDonald

“Research assistantships help students who may be interested in pursuing a doctorate in ABA and need to gain relevant research experience outside of their required thesis project,” MacDonald says. “The Autism Center graduate assistantship allows students to gain experience working with young children and implementing high-quality behavior analytic services. Both of these opportunities really set us apart from other competing programs in the area.”

MacDonald knows firsthand how impactful scholarship support is: She received funding for faculty research through The Virginia Pyne Kaneb ’57 Scholars Program for research on parent training skills for preschoolers. She and other faculty members bring their experiences back to the classroom.

“Our program not only helps our graduate students pass the Behavior Analyst Certification Board exam, but we help them to become thoughtful science practitioners,” MacDonald says. “I love that my job is a mixture of teaching, research, and clinical experience. It is an honor to be one of the first people to teach them about ABA and to lead them through their future careers.”

Taisha Jackson ’20

Program: Dental Hygiene; Hometown: Dorchester, Massachusetts; Scholarship: LLARC Sharing Opportunities Scholarship

When Taisha Jackson ’20 endured health problems that almost ended her life, she made a promise to herself: “When I recover, I will dedicate my life to furthering my life and fulfilling God’s mission for me to help others.”

She was 33 years old with four children when she enrolled in the dental hygiene program at Mount Ida College that was later adopted by Regis when the school closed. In November 2019, the Regis program received the Presidential Choice Award for outstanding contributions to dental hygiene education by the Massachusetts Dental Hygienists’ Association.

“I told my kids even when they were very little, ‘Mommy is going to college one day.’ I tried a few times, taking a course here or there. Then a good friend recommended dental hygiene, which I had considered back when I was 17. At that moment, I knew I was going to give it everything I had.”

But a few years in the program, financial strains turned her life upside down. After falling behind on bills and rent, she reached out to Regis’ student affairs team for advice—specifically Dean of Students Walt Horner.

“Walt was able to direct me to many different avenues to ensure my success, including the Lifelong Learning at Regis College (LLARC) Scholarship. Without direction on how to rearrange my circumstances, I most likely would have struggled intensely my last semester. The support helped me soar to the next level.”

She also has mentors who have encouraged her along the way: Associate Professor of Dental Hygiene Karen Hallisey-Pesa, DMD; Assistant Professor of Dental Hygiene Maryse Rodger; and Associate Professor and Program Director of Dental Hygiene Denise Tetreault, MEd. “All three of these women have shaped me into the student I am today. The program is rigorous, and sometimes I lost confidence in myself; but knew I couldn’t let them down.”

Jackson says that her Regis support comple- ments what she receives from her family and friends. “I am grateful for people who have sacrificed to help keep me afloat, especially my fiancé Shakir Wilson, who put his livelihood on hold to support mine. Now I have a future; I have advanced my career and I will have a professional title. I am the second person in my family to obtain a degree. I feel like there are infinite possibilities. I feel empowered to do more and be more.”

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