University of Wisconsin Oshkosh alumna Rhonda Lindstrom, of Aurora, always has been passionate about helping others. She has traveled around the globe—from Mexico, to India, to Africa—following her calling to assist those who are less fortunate.
When the 2010 earthquake hit just west of Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince, Lindstrom wanted to serve. But despite her six years of experience as a full-time humanitarian, she was denied access to Haiti because only doctors and nurses were allowed.
That’s when Lindstrom decided to return to UW Oshkosh and earn a degree in nursing.
“I chose to come back to UW Oshkosh because it has a such a good nursing program. In all the places I had worked, I saw this huge need for medically trained personnel,” Lindstrom said. “There weren’t enough doctors, nurses, anybody to help, so I said, ‘I can do something about that.’”
Lindstrom first graduated from UW Oshkosh in 1993 with degrees in Spanish and business administration. This time around, she said, she’s got an unwavering determination founded on her need to help others.
“It’s really different to be 40 and going to college. Now I know what I want to do, as opposed to when I was 17 and wasn’t sure,” Lindstrom said. “I love my classes, and I love learning. My teachers have become supporters.”
At 17, Lindstrom said she did not have the confidence to approach her professors for help, but now she realizes her professors are such assets.
“My professors are people I turn to and say, ‘How do I do this? Where do I get this information? What do I do next?” Lindstrom said.
While she is waiting to be accepted into the Accelerated Nursing Program, Lindstrom is taking classes on campus, though her heart is with the children she left in India when she returned to Oshkosh in 2010.
“There are people dying every day in the places that I am going to work,” Lindstrom said. “As much as I love learning, I also know the need hasn’t changed out in the world.”
While Lindstrom values her education, she said her real focus is on other people.
“They’re waiting. They’re dying waiting for me,” Lindstrom said. “Everyone should travel to a Third World country and experience what it’s like, because our lives are so sheltered and we don’t understand what it’s like.”
Lindstrom continues to help others here in Oshkosh. She works with foreign exchange students who live on the UW Oshkosh campus and attend local schools.
“I tutor 10-18-year-olds from Korea,” Lindstrom said. “I’m like a parent to them—it’s more than tutoring. It’s sitting down and doing homework with them to answering questions about life.”
Lindstrom’s passion for humanitarian work also shines in her classes.
“In my Introduction to Nursing class we had to give presentations on what field of nursing we want to get into, so I was able to share with the class what kind of work in Third World countries I am already doing,” Lindstrom said. “From that presentation, students saw things they hadn’t seen before or thought about, and some even said it was something they would be interested in doing.”
Because Lindstrom is coming back to UW Oshkosh after already completing two majors, she said she has some idea of what to expect. But what really gives her the confidence to finish her nursing degree is her experience in Third World countries.
“I always wanted to work in the medical field, but I never dreamed I was smart enough,” Lindstrom said. “This time around, I know I can do anything.”
Contributed by Kayde Kempen