Headshot of a blonde female nurse smiling

From a young age, Amanda Mas knew she wanted to devote her life to helping others. Her third-grade teacher inspired her with passionate stories about joining the Peace Corps and helping people. But Amanda’s interest in helping others runs deeper, as well. Throughout her childhood, Amanda’s mother struggled with addiction, and watching this struggle was foundational in fostering Amanda’s desire to dedicate her life to helping others.  

When Amanda got to high school, she learned about another organization that she dreamed of joining: Doctors without Borders. She knew that having a medical degree would give her a greater chance of joining the organization, so she planned on pursuing a nursing degree. But with all these plans laid out for her future, life threw Amanda a big curveball: she had her first son during her senior year of high school and became homeless soon after.

Despite these challenges, Amanda didn’t drop out of high school. She worked two jobs, got her own apartment, and enrolled in an alternative education program that allowed her to graduate with her diploma on time.

Taking Advantage of Transfer Pathways to Finish Her Bachelor’s Degree

After graduating high school, Amanda took a short break from pursuing her educational goals, but returned to school at the age of twenty-one to get her Associate Degree in Nursing. She chose River Valley Community College, because it provided a low-cost and alternative-friendly option that allowed her to do work online while at home with her then three children. After graduating with her ASN in 2017, Amanda focused on her new career as a nurse. A few years later, she started thinking about going back to school to pursue her bachelor’s degree.

She enrolled in UNH CPS’s RN to BSN pathway, choosing it over other nursing pathway programs for the affordability and flexibility it provided over other programs.  

“I credit the RN to BSN pathway at the UNH College of Professional Studies with my academic attainment. The low cost and flexibility of the BSN program at UNH CPS was the deciding factor; the tuition benefit made pursing my BSN seem much more attainable.”

Amanda also described that other programs would have slowed her down, because they wouldn’t allow her to take a heavy course load despite her confidence in her ability to succeed. At UNH CPS, she was able to take as many courses as she wanted each semester. She completed her RN to BSN program at UNH CPS within one year and then immediately transferred into the MSN program in 2022, in which she is currently thriving.

Her Online College Experience

Amanda has had a nontraditional educational journey, and thus she needed a nontraditional program that would fit her unique needs. While UNH CPS offered the affordable and flexible degree pathway she needed, Amanda also praised the engaging courses she’s taken, saying that the courses nourish her intellectually and provide the flexibility to allow her to pursue topics she’s really interested in, such as psychology, psychiatry, trauma, inequity, and leadership. Amanda credits the opportunity to learn about the areas she finds most interesting with providing extra incentivization to complete her work.

She also discussed the sense of community within the online classes, and the networking opportunities it has provided:

“To support classmate connections, professors will encourage respectful, substantial communication with peers on discussion assignments, and I’ve found that this is very helpful for developing connections. Oftentimes at the end of a course classmates will discuss their next classes and send well-wishes in the final discussion post or emails to each other to encourage further communication. Being in courses with other nurses enables networking connections to develop that wouldn’t occur without the common academic experiences.”

While she’s been enjoying the course material and sense of community, Amanda also speaks highly of the UNH CPS faculty, and how they’ve helped her succeed and engaged her mind as a student:

“All of the faculty members I’ve worked with at [UNH CPS] have been attentive, compassionate, thoughtful, and supportive. My advisor, Mary Stanton, and the program director, Amy Thompson, have both provided support and have advocated on my behalf a number of times.

My professors have provided opportunities to challenge my ideals and perspectives and developed my ability to develop strong fact-based arguments. They’ve all provided invaluable feedback and guidance as I learned to develop my ability to recognize reputable information and formulate comprehensive papers. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from so many highly educated and dedicated professors.” 

Building a Nursing Career as a Mom and Student

Like any working mom, Amanda faces many challenges as she pursues her degree. Raising three kids, completing schoolwork, and working as a nurse means she has to be a master of time management.  

“Over the course of my education I’ve had to learn to make sacrifices, prioritize, and manage my time appropriately to support the various aspects of my life; mother, nurse, and student. My priorities as a divorced mother of three are to support my children physically, emotionally, and financially.”

Despite the demands of being a mother and a student, Amanda has continued to build a thriving career as a nurse helping those in need. She started as an acute care in-patient psychiatric nurse and then eventually switched to her current role as a juvenile corrections nurse, where she’s able to continue to pursue her passion for providing aid to vulnerable trauma survivors. Amanda has a mission to provide compassionate, equitable, non-judgmental, trauma-informed care for all of her patients, regardless of their backstories, diagnoses, or the crimes they’ve been accused or convicted of.

“I feel privileged to be able to work with vulnerable individuals with complex and challenging backstories. The children that I work with have all experienced adversity, trauma, and challenges that are sometimes incomprehensible, and they exhibit incredible resiliency and strength. My “work kids” are generally respectful, charismatic, and intelligent individuals who are doing the best that they can given their life circumstances. I enjoy watching their progress, acting as a confidant, and advocating for their needs. Working with my chosen population is an everyday reminder of the strength and resiliency that all individuals innately have.”

While Amanda finds her role incredibly rewarding, her work schedule is far from ordinary. She works Baylor shifts, which run overnight from Friday to Sunday. While it’s not an ideal schedule, it allows her to be a fulltime nurse on the weekends and a fulltime mom on the weekdays. She’s able to complete the majority of her schoolwork during her overnight shifts or when her children are at school. And while her unusual schedule means she’s had to sacrifice time spent with friends and family, her loved ones are her biggest supporters and continually encourage her to persevere.

Staying Motivated Through Challenges

Despite her busy schedule, Amanda never loses sight of her goal, and always stays motivated to keep pushing forward with her education and career. She knows that investing time and energy into her education will pay off in the end, and also wants to be a role model for her kids. As a first-generation college graduate, she’s motivated to continue her academic advancement and demonstrate to her children that it is possible to continuously seek higher education.

“Completing not only high school and college but graduate school and eventually obtaining a Ph.D. all while raising my children is the best way that I can think of to prove to them that they can also obtain higher education and thrive in the process.”

Looking Toward the Future

Amanda graduated from her MSN program in December 2023 and intends to apply for a PhD program for Fall 2024. 

I’m looking forward to putting my degrees to work for me as I step into a leadership role later in my career. I know that higher degrees will provide me with more opportunities for professional advancement and opportunities to negotiate aspects of my career.”

One day, when her three children are grown up, Amanda intends to realize her dream of serving overseas.  


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