Pursuing her degree while fighting for her life

Being a mom of teenagers and younger children can be daunting. Add to that the stress of returning to school in pursuit of a registered nurse degree and a bachelor’s in psychology, and you have the makings of an immensely complex life.
But things got even more complicated for Darcie Lyn Chamberlain than just having to deal with little rest and lots of chaos. She also found herself fighting for her life.
Chamberlain is a nontraditional student attending the Blanding Campus of Utah State University-College of Eastern Utah. She is an example of the special students who comprise the diverse educational landscape of this small, but thriving, campus of 800 students.
Chamberlain was in the first weeks of her second semester of the LPN program and was doing clinical work in Chinle, AZ, when she came down with a terrible sore throat. It was bad enough that she went to the emergency room where she was treated for flu-like symptoms.
But on her return to Blanding, her condition only got worse. She was ultimately life-flighted to St. George and from there to the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City where she was diagnosed with a life-threatening form of leukemia. She subsequently spent nearly three months at Huntsman and another two months in St. George undergoing treatment.
Although she had to drop all of her classes, the nursing program supported her, keeping her up to date on readings and assignments, said Don C. Larson, USU Eastern associate professor of sociology.
One year later, Chamberlain reentered the program and completed her certificate in practical nursing while continuing her chemo-therapy. She has since been admitted into the RN program and continues her classes towards her bachelor’s in Interdisciplinary Studies with an emphasis in Psychology.
“We have had numerous examples of determination, like Darcie’s,” Larson said. “They include nontraditional students who, while pursuing their studies, take custody of their grandchildren or build their own home.”
He said the Blanding Campus also has a vast number of students who come from non-English speaking homes who are the first in their families to graduate from high school and then go on to complete their associate degrees.
“Our specialty is to help students acquire options for their lives, to see new opportunities and new potentials,” Larson said. “This is our expertise and our passion.”

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