Our Sisters: Judeen Schulte

Teaching future nurses during a global pandemic doesn’t faze Sister Judeen Schulte ’71.

That’s because the Alverno nursing professor and her colleagues have always connected real world events to student learning.

“Everything we do in our public health courses, whether I’m teaching master’s students or the undergraduates, has always brought in the current experience,” she says. “Today, we are very much connecting the pandemic and public health concepts.”

For instance, Alverno undergraduate and graduate students are working with the Milwaukee Health Department to help staff its COVID-19 hotline.

“It’s teaching them about communication, and it’s teaching more about COVID in a way that’s helpful to them as a professional,” Schulte says.

Schulte recalls how, during her time as an Alverno undergraduate, learning was relevant and applicable to the real world. As a faculty member and School Sister of St. Francis, she is proud to carry this tradition forward.

“It’s always been my greatest honor to teach at Alverno,” she says. “Alverno’s education is so powerful that I feel like we’re truly preparing the leaders of today and tomorrow.”

This interview has been edited and condensed.

How were you called to the sisterhood?

I was growing up in the 1950s. At that time, being in the convent was a very normal thing for Catholic families. There was always discussion about it. Six of my aunts and a great aunt came to the School Sisters of St. Francis.

My family always said, “Join the convent, and you can see the world and learn a lot.” The School Sisters have given me so many opportunities to meet people, to learn, to be in different environments, different countries. Being at Alverno, a School Sister institution, has taught me so much about mission and service.

Why did you pursue a career in nursing?

My mom was hugely influential. Mom married at 19 and didn’t finish high school. But she and my dad were both super committed to education. My mom always said, “If any of you girls want to go to nursing school (I was the oldest of 5 girls), I would scrub floors to help you pay for it.”

When I was nine years old, my dad was in a significant construction accident. He was unconscious for three weeks, was off work for over a year, and had over a year of rehabilitation. So my mom decided we needed an additional source of income. She went back to school, got her GED, became a licensed practical nurse (LPN), and then worked for almost 15 years in nursing.

Then, in high school, I was working in a local grocery store and I had this wonderful man as a boss, Mr. Enlow. Mr. Enlow’s daughter Joyce was in nursing school in St Louis. After her graduation, she was driving home. It was rainy, and she was in a car accident that left her paralyzed from the waist down. After her recovery, she went back to school and became a nurse anesthetist, which she could do from a wheelchair.

I had always wanted to be a teacher or nurse. When I learned about Joyce, I decided to become a nurse, in her place. And, at Alverno, I’m both a nurse and teacher!

In what ways is the Alverno of today similar to the Alverno of your student days?

Your education has to engage you with the world. Obviously in today’s world we are talking about COVID as well as other things like racism and climate change. At that time, we were relating to futurism and changes in our society related to civil rights.

Even though we didn’t have the same formal recognition of the 8 Abilities, just like today, we were taught to be, and aimed for being, a competent person as well as practitioner. Global perspective, communication – those all fit very much with the education I had in the 1970s.

I had very innovative teachers and people who were trying things and helping you to be ready for the world, just as we are today.

What do you think makes the Alverno community so special?

We’re a learning community, we’re a caring community, and we’re a diverse community. Those three things are hugely important and make Alverno a distinctive and strong community.

This article appears in the fall/winter 2020 issue of Alverno Magazine.

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