Diane Blackburn Gearhart '09
Diane Blackburn Gearhart ’09 loves science. That passion inspired her to choose biology as her major at Randolph-Macon College, and then it inspired her to pursue a career in nursing. A graduate of both R-MC and the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) accelerated BS in nursing program, Gearhart is a critical care registered nurse at AnMed Health Medical Center, a Level 2 trauma center in Clemson, South Carolina. She works with critical patients who have suffered a range of trauma, from severe accidents to heart attack and stroke.
“Everything awful that you can imagine,” admits Gearhart. “But it’s fascinating work, and I really love it, taking care of people who really need help.”
Gearhart became interested in nursing during her junior year at R-MC. “I have always loved science and knew I wanted to do something with it. I am a very hands-on person and I also like research. I knew that with nursing I could work in different areas—pediatrics or critical care for example, whatever I was interested in.”
Challenged and SupportedGearhart says that her R-MC education, including an internship at St. Francis Medical Center and her senior thesis research project with now-emeritus Biology Professor Wallace Martin, prepared her very well for the demanding accelerated program at VCU.
“The VCU program is a very intense five semesters,” says Gearhart. “In addition to classes, you have clinicals, so you are working in the hospital at the same time. And the program requires a lot of research. I feel that I was very well prepared for all of it, because at Randolph-Macon we had intense, amazing classes that challenged me. All the science I had down absolutely, and my classes also made me very comfortable with writing papers and with research and with knowing how to use resources. And the teachers challenged me but also supported me at the same time.”
The welcoming atmosphere was what attracted Gearhart to Randolph-Macon. “I visited the campus and fell in love,” she says. “When I was doing the tour I was very impressed with how everyone seemed extremely friendly and very involved with the school.”
Her first impressions were confirmed during her four years at R-MC, where Gearhart, who would end up serving as president of her senior class, immersed herself in the school community. What she liked most about life at R-MC, she says, was that “it’s like a family, but it’s not ‘cliquey,’ and it’s a diverse community where you get to know a lot of different people. I met my best friends and even my husband (Richard Gearhart III ’07) there. And the connections with alumni are great as well.”
The Best of BothLooking back, she’s also happy that she spent four years at R-MC before pursuing her BS in nursing. “I wouldn’t give up my four years at R-MC for anything. I am glad to have my two degrees. I love biology, and I love nursing, and I believe that with all the research I did at R-MC I was better prepared for the nursing program.”
Gearhart, who hopes to return to VCU for a master’s in nursing, says that the new Guaranteed Admission agreement with VCU’s accelerated BS in nursing program will be a wonderful opportunity for Randolph-Macon students.
“When you graduate from the nursing program at MCV, you are graduating from one of the top programs in the country. I love what I do, and in nursing the options are unlimited.”
Paving the Way for SuccessRather than prepare students for one career, Randolph-Macon College prepares students for a lifetime of careers in an ever-changing world. Exceptional faculty work with students to cultivate their ability to think critically and analytically and to find creative solutions for solving problems. R-MC graduates are well-prepared for successful careers, often far outside of their areas of study.
The Randolph-Macon EDGE and Alumni NetworkThe Randolph-Macon EDGE, the cornerstone of the Center for Personal and Career Development, helps Randolph-Macon students lead the pack when competing for jobs and top graduate schools. Students have the support of faculty, career coaches, alumni and staff as they focus on their personal and academic ambitions.
InternshipsStudents may choose to pursue paid or volunteer internships in a wide variety of settings. The Bassett Internship Program has been successfully placing students in academic internships both in the U.S. and around the globe for 30 years. Coordinated with the Center for Personal and Career Development, the program helps students identify their interests and matches them with an appropriate internship opportunity. Randolph-Macon’s alumni provide a strong network of support for students throughout their time at the college or in assisting them after graduation with career direction and opportunities.
The Four-Year Degree GuaranteeThe college’s Four-Year Degree Guarantee states in writing that freshmen who meet the Four-Year Degree Guarantee requirements will graduate within four calendar years. If not, Randolph-Macon will waive tuition costs for courses needed to complete the degree. Currently, 95 percent of R-MC graduates complete their degree in four years or less—an important value-added benefit for parents to consider when visiting colleges with their students.
Study AbroadStudy Abroad programs offer students a beyond-the-classroom global perspective and opportunities to immerse themselves in other cultures. Students can choose from a host of travel courses during January Term and semester-abroad programs.
SURFThe Schapiro Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program gives students the opportunity to conduct 10 weeks of original research under the guidance of faculty mentors. Many students present their findings at national and international conferences.