After nearly three years of college, Nathan Sanders wanted a different area of focus. Instead, he transferred to Northern Kentucky University and got three of them within the Bachelor of Arts in Integrative Studies program.
"The biggest selling points were, I could graduate in a reasonable amount of time and NKU is extremely affordable," he said. "As I started taking integrative studies courses, I realized it's a field that I really like. I've never been able to decide on one thing that I wanted to do because I find it limiting and shallow.
"With integrative studies, I could combine all of the things I was interested in to work in a field that catered to my interests and the needs of the complex problems of the world. My focuses are health science, human services and psychology."
After attending NKU on campus for one year, Sanders completed the BA in Integrative Studies program in December 2018 with the final semester in the fully online format. However, he plans to enroll in nursing school soon.
"I want to translate what I've learned into clinical health — specifically, rural health and rural mental health," he said. "My research has been based on combating the mental health epidemic in Appalachia. I want to take my skills into clinical health settings and work on the front lines."
That career goal stems from the fact that Sanders grew up in Greenup, Kentucky, in the Appalachian region.
"Mental illness is something that honestly is not ever talked about where I'm from," he said. "It wasn't in the forefront of my mind until I started taking health-related classes and a lot of classes on health science, in general. I learned the importance of mental health to your physical health. In order to be a healthy person, you have to be mentally healthy."
North to NKU
Sanders enrolled at the University of Kentucky after graduating from high school in 2014. He then transferred to NKU and attended classes on campus before taking his final round of courses online.
"I like campus life at NKU because it's super inclusive," he said. "Everyone is really friendly. It's not really cliquey. However, I absolutely love the flexibility of the online format. I am a bartender, so I only work in the evenings. It's still awesome to work two days during the week and get all of my schoolwork done in those two days. I can focus on some of the other things I am interested in on the other days."
The capstone course and psychology courses Sanders took were his favorites in the BA in Integrative Studies curriculum.
"The capstone really ties all of the things I had been learning together, and I emerged from it a different person," he said. "I found what sort of opportunities are out there for my specific interests. NKU also has a great psychology staff. Health psychology, in particular, was really cool."
Sanders also liked that the integrative studies program significantly enhanced his skill set.
"The program offered a lot more insight into different fields of study I can incorporate into a nursing practice or another graduate study I decided I want to do," he said. "It offers great skills in critical thinking and problem-solving and the ability to take very complex information and work on a problem more holistically. I got a lot more out of the program than I expected."
Not Finished Yet
Sanders believes the BA in Integrative Studies degree provides a solid bridge to nursing school and any future career endeavors he might pursue.
"I absolutely want to work as a nurse," he said. "Eventually, I'd like to become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. I don't know if I'll follow through with it or not, but maybe I could open a rural mental health clinic. My family is excited about my bachelor's degree. They don't understand why I am going back to school, but they have been supportive."
Sanders also recently started writing a blog called the Big Health Question.
"I write the blog because I like to write and help other people," Sanders said. "It's hard to do web design, so a website is still in the works. I would like to do a little bit of blogging throughout nursing school as a side hobby. I'm writing about integrative health topics that are really popular right now."
Even with the ability to focus on different areas in the integrative studies program, Sanders believes it's important to have a solid interest in each of them to get the most out of the versatile program.
"You have to do what you like and pick fields you are generally interested in because that's the only way you're going to get your homework done," he said. "That's the only way you're going to feel really passionate about what you're doing, which is great because you can take three fields in this program."
Learn more about the NKU online BA in Integrative Studies program.
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