I first met Katie Hensley (PharmD, Class of 2021) during orientation the week prior to starting pharmacy school here at Concordia. In that week, I got to know Katie on a more personal level—her bubbly personality, family life, and most importantly, her background. It wasn’t until we started commuting together that I learned the rest of Katie’s story and the obstacles she faced prior to being accepted into pharmacy school.

Early Challenges

After years of many absences and difficulty coping with the divorce of her parents, Katie dropped out of high school at the age of 17. At the time, she lived with her dad who worked long hours as a foreman for a construction company. While she was, and still is, very close with her dad, Katie was overwhelmed with her mom missing from her life. It wasn’t that Katie wasn’t successful in high school, but rather that her focus was elsewhere and “school took second to [her] personal life.”

Pharmacy School + Newborn = Success?

It wasn’t until she was urged by her boyfriend, now husband, Todd, to get her GED that Katie decided to return to school. Upon obtaining her GED, Katie worked as a senior pharmacy technician for Walgreens, Meriter Hospital, and Miller Pharmacy. After 10 years of working as a technician, Katie “found [her] love and passion for pharmacy” along with the desire to “have a much bigger impact on patients’ lives.” While Katie didn’t always see her own potential, her husband and friends did; “I really owe it to some of my friends I’ve made along the way at Meriter as well as to Todd. I wouldn’t be where I am today without these individuals.”

One week after her interview with Concordia’s School of Pharmacy (CUWSOP), Katie found out that she was pregnant with her now one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Isla. While she knew the next four years were going to be challenging, her unexpected pregnancy didn’t stop her from attending pharmacy school. Instead it motivated her even more to continue beating the odds to be successful and provide a better life for her daughter and family. It was a less than a month into her first semester of school that Katie and Todd welcomed their baby girl into the world. After four weeks of maternity leave and learning the material on her own, she returned to school to finish the semester and the rest of her first year strong.

Although there are many early mornings and late nights spent studying, Katie makes sure to set aside time to be spent with her family and friends. Maintaining good grades is not an easy task in pharmacy school, but Katie does so while balancing the responsibilities associated with the many roles she plays. With the continuous support from Todd, her parents, and friends, Katie balances being a mom, wife, and pharmacy student with ease.

Additionally, Katie credits the faculty and staff at CUWSOP for contributing to her success. Kristy Sprung, Director of Student & Alumni Affairs, provided Katie continuous support, not only academically but also in her personal life. Katie’s first year professors were encouraging and accommodating by providing her with support and flexibility during her four-week maternity leave.

True Grit

Katie’s intelligence and grit are what make her successful. During pharmacy school orientation Katie was inspired by a TED talk they watched that offered a compelling definition of grit. According to Katie, “Ever since, I’ve never felt more connected to a definition in my life. To have grit is to have passion, to have perseverance. At this point in my life, I have persevered, and I am finally proud of the person I am and have worked so incredibly hard to be.”

While I have no doubt that Katie would have succeeded regardless of what school she chose to attend for pharmacy school, I believe that CUWSOP was the only school that was right for her. Katie said it best when she said: “If there is anything I believe most in this world, it is that God has a plan for me, for everyone. I wasn’t raised in the church, but my belief is with God. If I’m being honest, CUWSOP was not my first choice, on paper, solely due to the cost compared to other in-state programs. It wasn’t until I visited CUWSOP that my mindset had completely changed. You know that feeling you get, when something great is about to happen? Like you feel like you are in the right place at the right time? The one where everything you’ve done, every decision you’ve made has led you to this point? That was me leaving my interview day at Concordia School of Pharmacy. I knew I had found my home for the next four years. This is where I was meant to be. I felt it, I knew it, and it’s what I wanted. Two years in, and I stand by my decision more now than ever before. I have made lifelong friends and grew exponentially as an individual. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity Concordia gave me, and for every person I encountered on interview day that saw greatness in me.”

To have grit is to have passion, to have perseverance. At this point in my life, I have persevered, and I am finally proud of the person I am and have worked so incredibly hard to be.

The Real Meaning of Success

Spending two hours in a car with someone four days a week, learning together in countless study sessions, and attending gatherings outside of school, you learn a lot about a person. I never imagined that choosing to sit next to someone during orientation would result in an amazing friendship, but I am so thankful that it did. Katie has completely changed my mindset about what it means to be successful. Success isn’t defined by one’s past but rather the process of overcoming obstacles and hardships to achieve one’s goals and dreams. It’s thanks to God and the faculty at Concordia for believing in Katie, understanding the importance of family, and giving her the opportunity to prove herself. Katie is truly an inspiration, and I am so proud of what she has accomplished.

—Alicia Johnson

PharmD Student, Class of 2021

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