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Cortney Prezel - Department of Nursing graduate

Cortney Prezel
After all this work with my classmates, I really wanted to finish with them."
~ Cortney Prezel

Nursing alum Cortney Prezel knows the value of having professors who really want their students to succeed - even if it means putting in extra work to make it happen.

Prezel, who graduated in May, has been a member of the 190th Air Refueling Wing (ARW) with the United States Air Force for the past seven years. As she wrapped up her junior year at PSU, this aircraft mechanic received word from her command that she would need to report for duty and spend the summer in Iraq.

Realizing she'd be returning six weeks late into her senior year, Prezel immediately turned to the nursing faculty to see if there was anything she could do to stay on schedule.

"I was so scared I'd be put on the three year program because of this," said Prezel, who transferred to Pitt State with an associate's degree after hearing good things about the program. "After all this work with my classmates, I really wanted to finish with them."

Although the workload would be tough, Nursing Chairwoman Mary Carol Pomatto and the faculty made it happen. In order to catch up, Prezel took on double coursework, racing through the already heavy demands of studies, exams and clinicals with the help of professors and her fellow students. To thank the department for its extraordinary help, Prezel asked the military what it could do to help her show her appreciation. Her leaders responded by awarding the nursing department with the national Patriot Award from the U.S. Department of Defense, an award given to employers and supervisors who go above and beyond to help military personnel achieve success in civilian life. The department also received the 190th ARW's Certificate of Appreciation.

Although it's a rare opportunity to help a student work through such a stressful setback, Pomatto said it was worth the work to see Prezel - who was recently hired as a nurse for PSU's Student Health Center - so deservingly finish her degree on time.

"When a student has gone to that kind of effort to recognize you, it validates what you do as a faculty member," Pomatto said. "She fulfilled a tremendous obligation on behalf of the rest of us, and to know she would graduate on time, and to be honored for helping her do that, was a wonderful moment for our entire department."