For the goal-oriented Engel family, Waubonsee Community College was and is the key to a successful career for two generations of family members.
Mary Beth Engel, of Serena, IL, attended Waubonsee in the 1970s to achieve a dream she had had since she was nine years old: to become a nurse. Mary Beth was a parent to young children at the time, and Waubonsee gave her the accessibility she needed to get her education while also being a mother. Sometimes bringing her five-year-old daughter with her to class, Mary Beth worked her way through the nursing program.
At that time at Waubonsee, nursing students traveled to the University of Illinois to visit the cadaver lab, since there was not one available on campus like there is today. Much of today’s technology did not exist either, so Mary Beth and her fellow students learned on live patients in area hospitals.
After graduating in 1975, Mary Beth worked in various nursing fields before working for the Department of Corrections for 24 years. Working in maximum security and medium security prisons, Mary Beth gained a unique perspective in the humanity of nursing.
“People think working in corrections you wouldn’t get the experiences or get the wide range of different illnesses or disease processes that you may get somewhere else, but you do,” she said. “You also really do care for these men that you’re taking care of.”
Working through the AIDS epidemic and witnessing violence within the prisons she worked at, the nursing career Mary Beth chose was constantly challenging, but always rewarding.
“Waubonsee set me on the path that I wanted to be on,” she said. “The path I always wanted to follow.”
A few decades later, Mary Beth’s grandson, Chadd Engel, also found himself entwined in Waubonsee’s roots. Chadd attended Columbia College in Chicago and started on a career that took him from nonprofit work to K-12 education spaces and higher education, and from Illinois to Hawaii and back again.
When Chadd and his family returned to Illinois and settled in Yorkville, it was important to him to work in the community in which he lives, which brought him to Waubonsee.
As the Senior Outcomes Assessment Coordinator at Waubonsee, Chadd works closely with the college’s faculty to oversee and support course outcomes, the alignment of course materials and learning activities.
“I really enjoy the care that’s expressed about how to approach those conversations,” Chadd said. “I hear a lot of conversations around student voice, and I appreciate that here.”
For Chadd, the family connection with Waubonsee provided a certain level of comfort when he is on campus.
“Thinking of my grandmother’s story, and her expectations she gained at Waubonsee of what she could do, were impacted with me, which led me to go out and achieve things and ultimately, coming back here to be employed,” he said. “It is really kind of cool how it all works in the continuum.”
Mary Beth and Chadd attended the 50th anniversary of the nursing program at the Waubonsee Aurora Fox Valley Campus in 2022. For Mary Beth, it was eye-opening to see how far the program has come. Though technology and the nursing program has changed, the work ethic of a nurse has not.
“Don’t give up,” is Mary Beth’s advice to today’s nursing students. “It takes a lot of work, but it’s worth it.”