A podium and backdrop with the Nebraska Wesleyan University logo.
Graduate student overcomes significant challenges to achieve degree

Graduate student overcomes significant challenges to achieve degree

  • Danielle Bayer headshot
  • Danielle Bayer headshot

Danielle (Reab) Bayer is this year’s recipient of the Kenneth R. Holder Award. This award honors the legacy of Dr. Kenneth R. Holder who served as an NWU faculty member and subsequently as provost from 1972 until his death in 1991. The award is given each year to a graduating student who has overcome significant challenges in achieving their degree.

Danielle Bayer headshot

In the spring of 2000, Bayer was getting ready to graduate from Columbus High School. Following the death of her father and some significant personal medical challenges, plans of attending college were put on hold so she could focus on her own healing.

As time passed, Bayer started working, got married and began growing her family. After taking a position in the housekeeping department of a hospital, her passion for working in the healthcare field was reignited.

Her passion led her to get certified as a CNA, Pharmacy Tech, and set on her way towards a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) program. While working on her LPN, Bayer's husband was struggling with substance abuse, ultimately leading to a divorce between her and her husband. Bayer completed her degree and set her sights on earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Nebraska Medical Center while continuing to balance the demands of school and supporting her family.

A mentor at UNMC suggested to Bayer that the MSN/MBA program at NWU would be a great opportunity for her to continue her professional development both as a nurse and as a leader. Bayer was not aware of NWU's program but agreed that it was the right fit for her. She started in NWU's program in 2017, and has been working diligently toward her MSN/MBA. 

Danielle Bayer with award

During her time at NWU, Bayer remarried and describes her husband as a “huge support” through her degree program. Bayer's employer, Columbus Community Hospital, has also been very flexible with her schedule, mentoring opportunities and tuition support.

COVID-19 put a significant strain on the healthcare system, adding to the stress of Bayer's multiple roles as a full-time nurse, graduate student and parent. A broken ankle last year took her out of work temporarily, but did not derail her degree pursuit. Last spring, her mother passed away unexpectedly. Bayer's mom, who was also a nurse, was a huge support and motivatorUnfortunately, her mother will not get the chance to see Bayer complete her educational journey; instead, Bayer's family and community at Nebraska Wesleyan will be there to cheer her on when she graduates in December. 

Bayer hopes her children see her as an example of setting goals for themselves, and she hopes to continue contributing to her community through her work in healthcare. Congratulations, Danielle!