A scary experience turns amazing

Although Anny Smith had an associate degree in nursing from Yakima Valley College and worked a decade as an RN in geriatric, rehab and hospice nursing, she never thought of herself as smart when she returned to college for a bachelor’s degree.

Anny Smith

“My education came really late in life compared to most, and it was really scary,” she said. “Am I smart enough to do this? Not that I didn't have the desire. But could I learn these things? I think that was the scariest, and it took a lot of work.”

Now, she has graduated from the University of Washington Bothell with a degree in Health Studies and two minors, Health Education & Promotion and Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies.

Named one of the Husky 100 — an annual recognition of students who make the most of their UW experience — Smith said her education went from scary to “amazing.”

Mastering academic challenges

One of her first courses, Health Research, was especially challenging because it required technical writing. “It's something that was really outside of my comfort zone,” Smith said. “I questioned whether I knew what I was doing all the time.”

But, Hoa Appel, lecturer in the School of Nursing & Health Studies (SNHS), guided her through a major assignment to write a research proposal.

“That was such an accomplishment, something that I'd never done before,” Smith said. “It did not come without much pain and tears.”

Smith submitted the paper to The Crow, the student peer-review research journal, and it was accepted and published. “That was really empowering — that this thing that gave me so much pain and grief was one of my personal accomplishments.”

Making human connections

Smith also found it challenging to sit in classes with students the age of her daughters who are in their early 20s.

“That was intimidating for me, not quite knowing where I fit in and trying not to take on that mom role. It was really hard to find a connection with a lot of the young people, but they've been pretty amazing,” she said. “They've taught me a lot, and hopefully I've taught them something.”

In fall 2019, Smith will continue her education in the Master of Social Work program at the UW in Seattle.

“My big goal is to use not only what I'm learning here but also my nursing background and combine that with social work so that we're looking more holistically at people and communities and what their needs are,” Smith said.

Service providers need to recognize that clients have myriad social impacts, including race, gender, identity and sexuality, she said. “These things also impact their health and how they're able to get services.”

Looking to a better future

Eventually, Smith would like to work at a nonprofit helping people experiencing homelessness. “How can we best serve them as human beings, instead of how can we fix them or change them?” she asks.

In addition to her husband for “telling me that I can do it when I don't feel like I can,” Smith thanks Appel and other UW Bothell faculty: Andrea Stone, Jody Early, Carrie Lanza, Victoria Breckwich Vasquez and Julie Shayne. “They’re all amazing and supportive in different ways.”

Stone is an assistant professor in SNHS and faculty member for The Crow. Early is an associate professor, Lanza a lecturer and Breckwich Vasquez formerly an assistant professor in SNHS. Shane is a senior lecturer in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences and faculty coordinator for Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies.

By “putting the work in and being dedicated and really reminding myself what my goal is, my UW Bothell experience went way beyond what I could have hoped for,” Smith said.

“The confidence, the skills, the voice that I've developed here on campus are amazing.”

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