Journey to Becoming a Nurse

serena lee by her research poster

Serena Lee, from Green Bay, Wisconsin, started at UWM in 2018 to pursue her undergraduate nursing degree. Lee was drawn to UW-Milwaukee because it was the perfect distance from her hometown and the campus displayed diversity and support for first-generation students.

When Lee arrived at UWM, she already wanted to become a nurse. When she was young, she experienced many occasions where health care professionals were not always culturally and spiritually aware of patient needs. Lee knew early on she could impact the health of underrepresented and low-income communities by providing care that respects patient culture and values.

Serena Lee

Lee started the professional nursing major in spring 2021, but not without a series of challenging times that impacted her during her program. From losing a close family member, Lee was not prepared to take on the nursing program, and she failed a class, which became a turning point in her journey to become a nurse. Soon after, Lee met Dr. Jennifer Kibicho, and the two began monthly mentorship check-ins where undergraduate research opportunities were shared. At the same time, Lee’s involvement with the Hmong Student Association exposed her to the McNair Program. Lee quickly applied to the McNair program, asking Dr. Kibicho to be her mentor. She was accepted as a McNair scholar in the spring of 2022 and began working on her research topic.

Currently, Lee is in the third semester of clinical, conducting research and working on a project under the guidance of Dr. Kibicho. Her delay in the program has led to amazing new friendships and success in the nursing major. Lee said, “I feel like I’m meant to be where I am, and I am doing much better.” Lee is focused on finishing her nursing program and looking forward to working alongside her patients. She has a strong interest in pediatrics and plans to continue her education to become a nurse practitioner, hoping to work with underrepresented and underserved populations.

As a Lawton and McNair Scholar, Lee has worked hard to be a part of the campus and Milwaukee community by attending cultural events, volunteering with the Filipino Student Union or Hmong Student Association and engaging with UWM resources. Lee has recently attended two national conferences with the McNair program, presenting her research and looking forward to the connections and knowledge she is learning through the program. Lee’s advice to others is, “Understand there is no set timeline for your goals, and you do not have to finish school in four years. Creating a plan and finishing your program is what matters. Do not rush and take your time to seek our opportunities.”