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Tara Castaneda, BSN '16

Tara Castaneda can tell you what it’s like to switch gears mid-career.

“I worked as a hairstylist for more than 10 years before I decided to pursue a career in nursing,” Castaneda said. “When I realized that this was what I wanted to do, I chose the associate degree path at Bergen Community College in Paramus, N.J., and it turned out to be the right decision.  I graduated from the associate degree in nursing program in 2013 and began working full time as an RN, before enrolling in the BSN program at the University.”

While pursuing her BSN, Castaneda worked as an RN in the mother and baby unit at Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, N.J.

Since completing her BSN in 2016, Castaneda has remained on the unit while still finding time to pursue her master’s degree with the University.

“Throughout the pursuit of both my bachelors and master’s degrees, I continue to have a wonderful experience at the University,” she said. “The online classes are easy to navigate, the mentors are all extremely helpful and I feel that I have gained valuable knowledge which I apply to my nursing practice each day. The flexibility of an online program appealed to me as a working mother and I was impressed with TESU’s reputation and knew that I would be self-motivated enough to handle a rigorous program.”

 In addition to her own motivation and self-discipline being credited for her success, Castaneda employed some financial assistance along the way to help carry out her goals.

As a recipient of the Walter and Louise Sutcliffe Foundation scholarship, Castaneda does not underestimate the power of giving back.

 “Attending college full time, as an adult with three children and a mortgage and bills can be a huge financial burden,” she said. “Receiving this scholarship helped me to complete my BSN in under two years, without having to take breaks due to finances.  It kept me on track and also inspired me to want to give back to future nursing students when I am in a position to help.”

The scholarship, which was established in 2015 by a grant from the Walter and Louise Sutcliffe Foundation, is made available to students currently enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate nursing degree program at the University.

“I would say that I’m living proof that the donations are put to good use,” said Castaneda. “With every course I take toward completing my graduate degree, I am pushed one step closer to reaching my goal, so every bit of financial assistance really does make a difference.”

Castaneda lives in northern New Jersey with her husband and three children ages 13, 7 and 18 months.