6 Questions with Susanna Dunlap

We’ve started a new series, featuring grads that have ended up doing a pretty wide variety of things after leaving their REL classes (graduating either recently or a little while ago).  So we posed a few questions to each and let’s see what we learn.

1. When were you enrolled at UA and what major(s) and minor(s) did you graduate with?

I was enrolled from 2008-2013 and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

2. When you first came here from high school, what did you think you wanted to do for a career?

I had no clue what career I wanted to pursue! I decided to attend UA based on my acceptance into the Million Dollar Band and to fulfill my college marching band dreams. I entered as a journalism major and even considered pursuing elementary education based on aptitude surveys and volunteer experiences.

3. Any memories from your REL classes in Manly Hall that stand out and, more importantly perhaps, that you can share without incriminating anyone?

I credit my Intro to Religious Studies class in ten Hoor Hall with securing my decision to pursue other REL classes in Manly Hall. I took Women and Religion as well as English Bible as Literature in Manly Hall. These two classes really stand out in my memory. Not only did I enjoy the thought-provoking dialogue with classmates and faculty, but I also developed the ability to critically appraise and discuss scholarly discourse. We laughed so much and really got along well, making for an excellent classroom environment. My classmates and faculty felt like family! We spent lecture breaks feeding Basil, the resident squirrel at Manly Hall, and eating snacks from the lounge—all very good memories!

4. So what have you ended up doing and what path led you there? Tell us a little about your career now.

I practiced as a registered nurse in emergency-trauma medicine in Huntsville, Alabama immediately following graduation. I am currently pursuing full time MSN studies at Vanderbilt University for triple-certification as an Adult-Gerontological Acute Care/Family Nurse Practitioner and Emergency Nurse Practitioner. My decision to pursue emergency nursing was secured in 2011 when I volunteered in Tuscaloosa as a first-aid assistant immediately following the tornado. Working with individuals facing emergent and urgent health crises really became my main focus—and thus, I ended up working in emergency-trauma medicine.

5. Is it fair to think that some of your REL undergrad classes or skills continue to be useful to you? If so, do you have any examples?

My REL education equipped me with complex tools to evaluate, compare, and appreciate culture and human behavior. For instance, as a nurse working in a high-stress, fast-paced environment where emotions are labile and a human life potentially hangs in the balance, there is a subtle finesse required to navigate cultural or religious differences that significantly affect the patient and the treatment plan. Additionally, providers must be able to safely and efficaciously apply scientific rationale and evidenced-based practice with regard to these cultural and religious intricacies that are embedded into this particular human experience. There is no exact instruction manual for these skills but having the aforementioned tools from my REL education certainly help promote a positive outcome in what are often grueling circumstances.

6. If you now gave some advice to your earlier self, the one in classes in Manly Hall, what would that be?

I suppose I would tell myself to go to Sitar more often. I really enjoyed their food! On a more serious note (not that Sitar isn’t serious!), I would tell myself to read more of the recommended readings rather than just focusing on the required readings. I’ve practiced this in my graduate career and found that the recommended readings offer just as much insight and learning opportunity as the required readings. This means more work, but the pay-off can be immeasurable!