International nursing graduate discovers her inner ‘voice’ at Stritch
Starting college as an 18-year old high school graduate can be a nerve-wracking transition for many. It often means new surroundings, new friends, new living quarters and newfound independence.
But imagine making that transition more than 5,800 miles from the place you called “home” your entire life. That is the journey alumna Nana Ama (Annor) Korankye, ’01, ’03 saw herself on when she enrolled at Stritch, leaving behind a life in her home country of Ghana. It was her family’s strong Catholic religious foundation that attracted a young Korankye to Stritch.
“I toured a number of local schools, but I fell in love with Stritch right away,” said Korankye. “Stritch felt warm and welcoming – it felt like home.”
However, she found her first year to be very challenging.
“I had to start over and build relationships from scratch,” said Korankye. “Many of my classmates knew one another and there was already an established culture that I had to orient myself to.”
What helped a lonely Korankye come out of her shell and feel a part of the campus community was getting involved in on-campus activities.
“My R.A. really encouraged me to get out and meet people, and I eventually joined various student groups on campus,” she said. Shortly after joining the Stritch women’s soccer team, Korankye began to feel as if she had a real place on campus.
“I was part of a team and had the opportunity to bond with other students, outside of a classroom,” she said. That gave her the confidence to take on some significant student leadership roles. Perhaps most memorable among these was her time with the Student Government Association (SGA).
“My time in SGA was a transformative experience for me,” said Korankye. The SGA roles she held allowed for her to be a part of decision-making groups whose changes on campus resulted in a visible positive impact in lives of students. “That was very meaningful and rewarding work.”
Also rewarding and personally fulfilling was starting Stritch’s International Club with the help of fellow international student Kieran Antill, ’03.
“Before Kieran and I started this formally organized group, there was no real international student body representation on campus,” she said.
Originally named the Global Network Club, this group was an outlet for international students to come together for social gatherings, to sponsor on-campus events between international and American students and as an overall support group.
“I was very shy my first year in college,” said Korankye, who did not have a good understanding of American culture. “The food, weather, writing/speaking styles, pop culture, all of that was new to me.”
The International Club provided for a built-in support group on campus for those students to not only celebrate their heritage but share it with the larger Stritch community.
As someone who was not very familiar with the American writing style, literature and writing were not near the top of Korankye’s favorites list for classes. Yet, this provided another opportunity for her to grow in ways she would have never imagined.
“I credit assistant professor Paula Friedman for expanding my appreciation for literature,” she said. “Paula had a profound impact in the way I look at literature and the arts and she really helped in forming the person I am today.”
It was her love of science that led Korankye to the nursing profession.
“I was always good at science (particularly biology and physics) - I knew that was my strength,” said Korankye, who explored different options in the science field before deciding on nursing. “I have a passion for serving people. I knew that had to be a part of whatever I did as a career.”
Combining her love of science with her passion to help others, nursing proved to be a perfect match. Shortly after earning her associate degree in nursing, Korankye began working in the nursing field and immediately enrolled in the bachelor’s program at Stritch. She continued working full-time while in school and held various RN roles with local hospitals. Korankye is most proud of the work she did as a case manager, a position she was hired for that is typically for those with a master’s degree.
“I knew I had the experience and could do the job,” said Korankye who applied for and got a position as RN/Case Manager for All Saints Hospital in Milwaukee. She was an instrumental part in starting their case management program. But for Korankye, the most rewarding aspect of the nursing field was seeing the improvement of a patient’s health over the course of their treatment.
“When I worked on the cardiac floor at St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center, we would admit patients who were often very ill,” she said. “Seeing the level of improvement in their health and overall quality of life bythe time of their discharge was always very rewarding, knowing that our nursing team had played a vital role in that improvement and health intervention.”
Korankye, who plans to earn her Master’s degree so she can teach, is currently a full-time mom to her two young boys.
“I have grown so much as a parent these past few years, and being a full-time parent has also allowed me the flexibility to get involved in the community,” she said. “But I miss nursing and when the time is right, I want to return to teach.”
And when she does, she will always remember those important life lessons she learned at Stritch.
“Stritch taught me that open dialogue is important and that I do have a voice, my opinion matters and people will listen,” said Korankye.
“Being born and raised in Ghana, I was very timid when I came to Stritch. In my culture, you spoke if spoken to and your personal opinion as a child did not count for much.”
Stritch helped her change that mindset and way of thinking. It was that positive, transformative experience that convinced her brothers, sister and parents to follow in her footsteps and enroll in Stritch. Korankye is the first of the six-member Annor family to have earned degrees from Stritch, encompassing three colleges and ranging from associate to doctoral degrees.
“You only fail when you give up your will to persevere,” she said. “The journey to achievement is often challenging, but the end result will be worth the hard work!”