Long Trip Includes Key Stop at Thomas Nelson | Thomas Nelson Community College

Long Trip Includes Key Stop at Thomas Nelson

January 6, 2022
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Megan Barnard credits Thomas Nelson Community College for helping her find the right career path.

Megan Barnard always has been interested in science, always found it interesting.

“It always been a knack for me,” she said. “Some people have a knack for math. Some people have a knack for history. Science has just always been my thing.”

Finding the right career to pursue that interest in science hasn’t been as easy. After graduating from Grafton High School in 2015, she went to Longwood University, with an interest in becoming an athletic trainer. She discovered that wasn’t the right fit and tried biology. That didn’t work out, either, and she left Longwood in 2018, after three years.

“When I left Longwood, I wanted to do dental hygiene,” she said, adding she tested the waters by volunteering for the Red Cross as a dental assistant at Langley Air Force Base.

That eventually led to a full-time position, which she still holds. In the fall of 2018, she began classes at Thomas Nelson, being among the first students in the Health Science program. After graduating in December with an associate degree, she starts at Old Dominion University this month on her bachelor’s in health services administration.

“It’s been a long road, navigating through colleges. I think I’m finally on the right track,” she said, adding she hopes to be done at ODU in two years.

She enjoys working on patients, and is excited to shepherd them through the treatment process. However, she realized she prefers the administrative side.

“As a technician, I only focus on working on my patients and working with my doctor,” she said. “In the management aspect, you’re working on schedules, you’re working with doctors, you’re working on insurance, you’re working on so many other things.”

That perspective, being able to look at the bigger picture, is what makes Barnard such a great student, according to Thomas Nelson professor Michelle Alexander.

“What stands out to me about Megan is she is so good at connecting what she’s learning in class to the real world, and she’s so passionate about the subjects, whatever it is,” said Alexander, who had Barnard in three classes. “It’s really evident to me Megan is taking all of the information in and thinking ahead of how she’s going to apply that in her career in health administration.”

Barnard’s passion also rubs off on her classmates, and benefits them, as well.

“Her enthusiasm really helps her peers because when you have someone who is excited about the topic and really takes their assignment seriously, that creates a richer discussion in the class,” Alexander said. “And Megan certainly stands out as a leader in that in the classroom.”

Alexander has known Barnard for a year and a half, having her in nutrition, community health, and public health.

“Even though health administration is not necessarily on the front line working with patients, she’s going to need a knowledge of all that as she seeks to work in the health admin field,” Alexander said.

Barnard gives credit to Alexander.

“She is such a great professor,” Barnard said. “She really helped me navigate through the classes, and really understood where I was coming from, with wanting to learn.”

She added that learning was made easier because of the way Alexander teaches.

“It’s just very straightforward that kind of spoke to me, and I was able to grasp the information,” Barnard said. “And it got me really excited about the classes I took from her.”

Barnard also singled out Thomas Nelson adviser Seth Fisher.

“He was great,” she said. “He actually came from Longwood himself, so he knows the ropes of navigating from Longwood to Thomas Nelson to go to ODU.”

While Thomas Nelson, which is becoming Virginia Peninsula Community College, has a great partnership with ODU, not all transfers are accepted into the programs they want.

“Just because you get into ODU doesn’t mean you get into the health administration or the public health program,” Alexander said. “It speaks highly of Megan that she was accepted into that.”

Barnard recalls always wanting to help people, even as a youngster. She was a lifeguard, and then volunteered for breast cancer awareness causes while in college. Her long-range goal is to manage a hospital or a dental clinic.

It may have taken a while to find the right path, going a four-year college to a two-year college and on to another four-year college, but she said it was an easy transition to Thomas Nelson.

“I’ve been in touch with so many good people at Thomas Nelson that have really helped guide my way to the right degree,” she said. “They’ve been really helpful and I’ve been really thankful. I’m really excited for the future.”