Ann Muthee, a senior majoring in Biology, knew she would be a healthcare professional soon after entering high school. Health care runs in her family: Ann’s mother is a nurse for K-12 school districts. Ann began her studies at Montclair State University with an interest in medical school, but her experiences in class and her work as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) led her to an interest in pursuing a career in nursing. She plans to apply for the new Montclair State University Pre-licensure Master of Science in Nursing program.
Like most Montclair State students, Ann was enjoying a normal semester of courses in Spring 2020. But one course, BIOL 486 Island Ecology, included a unique field trip to the Galapagos Islands during Spring Break. On March 7, the eleven students and two Biology faculty got on planes to Ecuador.
It was the greatest time of my life. The students and professors [Drs. Paul Bologna and Jennifer Krumins] were great, and the food and culture of the Galapagos were amazing. I was able to see things from my textbooks in person, and feel closer to my classmates and professors than I ever would in a regular course. I would recommend a class like this for everybody.
As an access institution, Montclair State strives to provide all students with experiential learning opportunities and a sense of community. I am proud to empower a new generation of scientists with an appreciation of the world and understanding of global issues.
While Ann and the class were safely experiencing the world’s most amazing example of biodiversity, the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. Everything changed, almost overnight. While the members of the class made it safely back to New Jersey by March 15, they were required to quarantine at home for the following 14 days. During that time, the University pivoted to online instruction, adding additional stress to Ann’s situation. This was only the beginning of the troubles COVID-19 would bring.
“It’s been rough” says Ann. “Mom is a transport nurse for schools and rides the bus with children who need a nurse attending. She lost her job when schools closed.” As an EMT in Orange, Ann continued working during the pandemic as a frontline healthcare provider. “It’s been very tough,” Ann sighs. “Many of our patients have died. It’s hard, but we are managing.” Ann is currently assigned as an EMT with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), where she is an essential worker, monitoring body temperatures of passengers before they board public transportation.
The job as an essential worker created significant challenges for Ann’s academic studies. “I try to schedule work so that I have weekends for studying,” says Ann. “But people call in sick, and some coworkers have died.” College is her top priority. Ann mentioned that she spends almost every waking moment on schoolwork. “It’s working out for me.”
To underscore the challenges of balancing work and school during the COVID-19 outbreak, Professor Krumins related a particularly memorable class moment.
When Paul [Bologna] and I were teaching class online, Ann was on her phone. I noticed she was wearing PPE and in the front of a van of some sort. I said, ‘What are you up to?’ Ann reminded me that she was an EMT and that she was at work. She introduced us to her driver and partner, and then we went on about class.
Ann is just one example of how Montclair State students continue to get it done. THAT is true Red Hawk determination.