Building a Career on Compassion: Evelyn Schuler Scholarship recipient Carisa Blacklock
By Frances Badgett
When the COVID-19 pandemic rolled through hospitals and burned out healthcare workers across the country, registered nurse Carisa Blacklock doubled down. She kept serving her patients and continued working toward her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Western.
Blacklock had worked as a stay-at-home mom until her 8-year-old started school, then followed her interest in natural childbirth and women’s health as a doula and midwife’s assistant. Next she studied to become a registered nurse at Skagit Valley College, where she first learned about Woodring College of Education’s RN-to-BSN Program during a visit from Director Bill Lonneman.
“He said students get as much out of the program as they want to, and that there’s enough support to make sure students are successful. I just went in to finish the degree and get a raise, and I got so much more out of it. He was a thousand percent right,” said Blacklock. “I got a sense of confidence in being a nurse. I learned to handle information professionally, use research more professionally, approach patients more professionally—it made me a better nurse.”
One of the biggest challenges to nursing students is a work-life balance, but Blacklock credited the program’s faculty for their flexibility, understanding, and support. Blacklock also received the Evelyn Schuler Scholarship, which considerably reduced the financial burden of the program.
“It was such an honor to receive the scholarship, and when you have five kids and a busy life, it just helps to have that extra support,” she said. “It meant so much.”
The Evelyn Schuler Scholarship is for outstanding students in the RN-to-BSN Program. Schuler was director of health services at Western from 1974 until her retirement in 1985; her husband was longtime WWU history professor Carl Schuler. The Schulers’ daughter Jean Andresen and her husband Victor established the Evelyn Schuler Scholarship in honor of Jean’s mother, who dedicated so many years to the health of Western students.
So far the Nursing Program has more than 225 graduates. “Many go on to roles in nursing management, nursing education, public health, and advanced practice roles such as nurse practitioner,” Lonneman said.
This year, the Washington State Legislature awarded Western additional support for the nursing program as well as funding for the development of a new Master of Science in Nursing. “We will begin planning the graduate nursing program this fall,” Lonneman said.
Blacklock, who completed her degree this year, is working toward a future in which nurses like her nurture laboring mothers and encourage them to trust themselves and the process of labor. And one day, Blacklock would like to teach what she has learned to other nurses in a program just like the one that inspired her at Western.
Staying On Track: Haley Taylor and the Susan Joy Stevens Scholarship Endowment
By Frances Badgett
When she died in 2017, beloved coach and gifted athlete Susan Joy Stevens left behind a warm family, grieving students, many close friends, and a lasting legacy at Western. The Bremerton native graduated from Western in 1964 with a degree in education and dedicated her life to teaching and coaching young people. Her love of tennis took her around the world and earned her a place in the Southern California Jewish Hall of Fame. A “powerhouse” and “giant of a woman in a four-foot-eleven-inch frame,” Stevens commanded the classroom and the tennis court with spirit.
Stevens coached at Beverly Hills High School from 1971 to 2003. In 1991, she won Teacher of the Year and in 2015, she was honored with the Beverly Hills High McCarthy Lifetime Achievement Award. She also had a sparkling career in tennis, winning several gold medals at the World Maccabiah Games Masters Tennis Competition.
When it came time to create a legacy, she chose to establish the Susan Joy Stevens Scholarship Endowment at Western. The preferred recipient is a student with financial need in the physical education and health teacher education program of the Department of Health and Human Development at Western.
Camano Island native Haley Taylor is just that student. A physical education and health major, she’s balancing full-time employment as a camp counselor with the YMCA, a teaching practicum, and classroom work. When the COVID-19 pandemic curtailed her ability to earn money she faced dire financial circumstances, but she was eager to stay at Western.
“I received three scholarships and the Susan Joy Stevens Scholarship was the most generous by far,” Taylor said. “I can make school my biggest priority now.”
Taylor’s mom is a schoolteacher—and an inspiration. “I thought about all the great teachers I had growing up, and I saw how much my mom loved teaching. I decided to become a teacher, too.”
During her first quarter at Western, Taylor worked with Compass 2 Campus at LaVenture Middle School in Mount Vernon, helping kids with math homework during lunch and fielding questions about life at Western.
She entered the elementary school practicum uncertain of how she felt about teaching younger kids in a giant, echoing gym. But Taylor found that she didn’t have to scream to keep kids’ attention.
“They were so fun to work with,” she said. “Having their full attention in the gym really built my confidence.”
One day, Taylor dreams of becoming the first woman in her family to earn a master’s degree. And thanks to scholarship support, she’s well on her way.
Learn about Planned giving at western:
Dressing Students for Success: The WWU Career Closet
By Frances Badgett
Students facing financial hardship have one less thing to worry about when presenting at conferences, interviewing for jobs, or attending job fairs—the need to purchase professional clothing. Through donations from generous individuals, the Western Washington University Career Closet provides hundreds of students free clothing year-round.
“We are so grateful for every donation. We are really delighted by how much support we’ve received,” said Effie Eisses, director of Career Services.
Accessing the Career Closet is simple: Students set up an appointment and when they arrive, they receive help finding the items they need, styling their outfits, and completing them with accessories. The space is comfortable and private, and the clothes are presented inclusively, with no gender separation. Career Services also has rolling racks they take to campus locations where they sponsor photo shoots for LinkedIn profile pictures. All the clothing a student takes is theirs to keep.
The Career Closet stemmed from clothing donations from former President Bruce Shepard and his wife Cindy, and the garments became part of a College of Business and Economics program to provide business attire for students. As demand grew beyond CBE, campus partners decided to give it a broader reach. In 2019, the Career Services staff officially established the Career Closet in Old Main. Initially only a few racks of clothes and limited sizes, the closet is now well-stocked thanks to generous donations.
Donations come from all over the state, from retirees and others who are clearing out their closets. The two most significant gifts have been after the death of spouses. Kari, who asked to use only her first name, donated her husband’s bespoke suits, all of which were of exceptional quality and condition.
“My husband was in international business and he dressed well for his work. When he passed away last year, he left many beautiful suits. It was important to me that they be used for their intended purpose, and I set about networking to find an appropriate recipient. Career Closet, helping students on the road to their chosen careers, was the perfect choice,” Kari says.
Another donor, author Holly Barbo, ’74, also contributed several pieces of fine clothing after losing her husband. Within five days of donating them, her husband’s suits were distributed to students in need. “I was really delighted when I heard about the Career Closet and the opportunity for these clothes to make a difference.”