No lei-ing low for these GCU nursing graduates

Californian Kathy Taula, who received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, showcases her Samoan culture at GCU's Friday afternoon commencement ceremony.

By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU News Bureau

Kathy Taula doesn’t know anything about shrinking violets.

The Californian braved 99-degree Phoenix weather to receive her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree at the Friday afternoon ceremony for online students – a ceremony dominated by nursing graduate candidates – and did so dressed in a way that embraced her Samoan culture.

Taula wore not only garlands of white carnations and orchids and a flower garland of yellow carnations in her hair, but a garland of dollar bills that covered at least a third of her face.

“If the rest of our family could come, she wouldn’t be able to see anything,” said Taula’s sister, Dorthy Filemu, who made the dollar-bill garland along with Taula’s other sisters. “It’s our way of showing appreciation and love to her.”

Polynesian leis have become a tradition at graduation ceremonies, including here at GCU. They’re presented to welcome someone who has arrived and to show love to someone when they’re leaving. Graduation, as a transition-in-life ceremony, just seems to fit the occasion.

Purple and white leis and necklaces intertwined with shells have become a hot ticket at the University’s graduation ceremonies, including at the recently wrapped-up spring 2019 commencement that encompassed eight ceremonies that spanned three days in GCU Arena.

But the graduation accessories draped around Taula’s neck were like leis on steroids.

“You can make them out of anything – money or flowers are mainly what it is,” said the new BSN graduate, though they’re also made of candies and shells. The bigger and the more boisterous, the better.

Taula works in cardiothoracic nursing in California, where her family settled after leaving Samoa, and had thought about going for her BSN for a while before finally embarking on that journey.

“A few of my friends went here, and I went looking online to see something that was workable with my work, because we (online students) work. It’s not like we’re at-home, full-time students,” she said.

GCU fit what she was looking for, allowing her to reach for those big dreams while still being able to work and balance her life.

Nursing friends ’til the end

Kiran Dugal (left), Pritpal Trissell (right) and Kuljit Bhanbal (not pictured) studied to become registered nurses in India almost 25 years ago and decided to go for their Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degrees at GCU. The received their degrees Friday.

Although they weren’t dappled in leis, Pritpal Trissell, Kiran Dugal and Kuljit Bhanbal wore their decades-long friendship on their sleeve at Friday afternoon’s commencement.

All three received their registered nursing degrees at the Rajindra Hospital School of Nursing back home in India in 1995. The friendship of two of them, Dugal and Bhanbalm, goes back even further, when they were pursing their licensed vocational nursing degrees in the late 1980s.

“We have known each other since '92,” Trissell said of her and Dugal. “We graduated together then, and we are graduating together now.”

Over the years, all of them ended up moving to the United States and have stayed in touch. As it turns out, they all decided as a group of friends to pursue their BSN.

“We started talking,” Dugal said. “I was going for the (BSN) program and I asked her (Trissell), ‘You want to go?’ She said, ‘Sure.’ I got her in touch with a counselor and she fixed everything, and here we go.”

It was a fourth nursing friend of theirs, who now lives in New York, who recommended GCU. She had received her BSN and Master of Science Degree in Nursing through GCU and “recommended that we take this,” Trissell said.

The three friends all live in different parts of the country – in California and Oregon – but keep in touch and are able to support each other in their online studies through social media.

“That’s the beauty of online,” Trissell said.

California girls: All in

Sisters Sukhdeep Randhawa and Satvir Sohi (from left) and their friend, Navneet Kaur (right), decided to get their BSN's together.

Like the three friends who started their schooling together in India and just finished their BSN studies at GCU, California sisters Sukhdeep Randhawa and Satvir Sohi, along with their friend Navneet Kaur, also decided to go all in together to get their Bachelor of Science degrees in Nursing.

“Our friends, they did the same thing,” said Randhawa, who works at San Francisco General Hospital. “We’d been thinking about it for a while, but we had to find something that fit our schedule,” and GCU online was it.

While they all are from the Bay Area in California, they live in different towns – Sohi and Kaur work together, though, at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose. So when they had a problem with an assignment, they would text or email – “whatever worked,” Randhawa said.

Diving into the deep end together to get their BSN degrees made the process so much easier, they said, beaming as they sat on the floor of GCU Arena just before the start of the 2 p.m. commencement ceremony.

Everyone can get by, after all, with a little help from their friends, supportive family and a few decorative leis to show that they're no shrinking violet.

“We finally did it,” Randhawa said.

Follow GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults at [email protected] or at 602-639-7901.


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Bible Verse

(Moses addressed Israel, reminding them of God's deliverance of them from Egypt, and His commands given to them:) "You saw with your own eyes the great trials, the miraculous signs and wonders, the mighty hand and outstretched arm, with which the Lord your God brought you out (from bondage and delivered you.). The Lord your God will do the same to all the peoples you now fear." (Deuteronomy 7:19)

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