Throughout my time as a college student, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many people that have changed the way I think and shaped my worldview today, but perhaps none more so than Jace. I met Jace when we both took A&P II and Chem II at QVCC in the fall semester in 2015. We frequently joked about our age difference, since I was the youngest student in the class at 18, and he was one of the older – in his early 40s. However, my friendship with Jace, while we only took two classes together, was one that I am forever grateful that QVCC gave me. It’s not often that I find students who are older than their 20s in my classes at UConn, but in classes that are prerequisites for nursing school, finding students in the second season of their college education is very common at QVCC, and Jace was no exception.
When I sat down to talk to Jace this summer, he was halfway through the accelerated nursing program at UConn, and he just graduated this past week (which is why I felt that this blog post was the best to write today). When you meet Jace, you can clearly see a person who is made to be a nurse. He is kind and compassionate, with a fire inside of him for patient care. He is intelligent and knowledge driven, and this is only more evident when you learn about his previous education path. Jace did the traditional public school track from preschool to 12th grade, and graduated high school in 1994. He immediately came to UConn and studied psychology for 4 years, before going into research with the UConn psychology department. He reached a crossroads in his career when he realized he wasn’t comfortable using animals for research. Instead of continuing into a PhD program in psychology, Jace decided to go to Andover Newton, a theological school, and then continued to Harvard. Jace has clearly had a very diverse educational past, from UConn, to Harvard, to QVCC, and then back to UConn again, so I asked him what happened to go from studying theology to nursing. After he finished at Harvard in 2010, Jace decided that he didn’t want to be professionally involved with a church and had a crisis of faith. “Seminary makes more atheists than it does religious folks. Maybe not more, but it certainly makes a lot of atheists, especially if you do it at Harvard, where the idea is on critically looking at religion rather than just accepting dogma. So I found myself less interested in the practice of religion and more interested in it as a phenomenon.” Since he decided not to make working with the church his profession, he then had to make a decision – to continue working in religion as an academic subject, or continue in another direction. While Jace would have been okay being a “poor academic” or “starving artist” at other points in his life, he was about to be a father, so now he had to think about his long term financial stability. One of his friends came to visit him for a weekend, and while visiting, she asked if he had ever thought about nursing. She told him that “you have a science background, you clearly love science, and your history with religion and the church seems to indicate that you really like helping people.” It seemed like the perfect marriage of two things that were really important to Jace, and while he wasn’t up to spending another 4 years in college at that point in his life, he found the 1 year accelerated nursing program at UConn and thought it would be perfect. However, he had to finish up a few prerequisites first, and this is how he ended up at QVCC.
QVCC was the perfect place for Jace to take the rest of the classes he needed for the nursing program – anatomy and chemistry, genetics and microbiology. He chose QVCC for several reasons, but one of the largest driving forces was affordability. He looked at taking the same classes at UConn but the price was almost double. The schedule was also perfect for him as a father – he was able to take classes that ran from 6:30-9:30 pm and was able to keep his job. Jace also knew that taking classes at QV meant smaller class sizes, so he would be able to interact with the teachers and other students in a much more intimate setting.
After we talked about his educational history, I had to ask Jace if he found the classes at QVCC any easier than the classes he had taken at other schools, since he had such a broad base of comparison. Jace told me that QV prepared him incredibly well for the nursing program. “I draw on my chemistry, my anatomy, my genetics, my micro all the time in my nursing classes and I think they’ve served me very well. I think it’s a gross oversimplification to say that community college is simple and Ivy league or state college classes are comparatively more difficult. So much depends on the individual professors, the courses, and the students. I don’t think it’s accurate to say that community colleges are easier. I think it’s also really important to remember that there’s a lot more involved with who goes to an Ivy league versus who goes to a community college. I have seen people in Ivy league class that I’ve thought – how do I put this delicately…. I’ve seen all ranges of capability at both Ivy leagues and in community college. I think that a lot of it comes down to just what sort of advantages you were born with. Someone who is not very intellectually capable but comes from a higher economic class and with the right connection can go right into Harvard. On the other hand, someone who is brilliant, and I’ve seen people like this in a community college setting – brilliant, absolutely limitless aptitude, but didn’t have the money at the time.. They had to go to work at 12 years old because their family was in a difficult situation… Again I think it’s an oversimplification to say that one type of school is easier or brings people of a lesser aptitude and that another one brings in only the best.”
Jace is one of the kindest, most caring people I have ever met. He is the kind of person who will instantly become your friend in a class setting, helping study and answer questions. On many occasions, he helped me with my personal life, and in retrospect, I really should have taken his wonderful life advice much sooner than I did. If I were in a situation where I was having a routine blood draw, getting checked in for surgery or was in a terrifying trauma situation, there is no one I would rather have at my side than Jace. I cannot imagine someone who could be a better nurse, because he is already one of the most compassionate, thoughtful, and intelligent people I have ever met, and I am honored to have been able to talk to him about his past.