Meet Muriel Hazley (’23), a Cardinal Stritch transfer student who didn’t let life’s disruptions prevent her from earning her BSN.

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of stories highlighting a few Concordia’s uncommon graduates. Faculty and staff submit candidates for consideration. Stories are posted in the days leading up to commencement. View more uncommon graduates here

It took 15 years riddled with numerous heartaches, obstacles, and setbacks. But by the end of the day tomorrow, Muriel Hazley will have completed the final exam for her final course requirement to earn her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.

On Saturday, at the age of 53, she will cross Concordia University Wisconsin’s commencement stage alongside the 407 other individuals who comprise the December 2023 cohort of CUW graduates.

Hazley’s mother, who was the catalyst behind the journey, won’t be there in person to see it. It was the passing of Hazley’s mother in 2005 that ultimately spurred Hazley to finally make good on her goal of earning her degree.

“She was my cheerleader,” Hazley said. “She always believed in me. I wanted to see it through for her since I had promised I was going to do it.”

Hazley didn’t fully realize at the time the journey she would soon embark upon.

A divorce from her studies

Muriel Hazley and her grandchildren

Hazley originally began her studies at Cardinal Stritch University. Just a year and a half into her program at Stritch, Hazley had to take the first of a couple hiatuses from her program, as she found herself embroiled in a divorce. Suddenly with no viable childcare options for her four adolescent children, Hazley pressed pause on her degree to re-stabilize her family.

As her children grew, she considered returning to school. Then her teenage son announced he would soon become a father. Three years after her granddaughter, Aaliyah was born, Hazley assumed full custody of the child and has raised her ever since.

Still, Hazley’s promise to herself and to her mother pulled at her. When Aaliyah turned 7 and all but one of her children had moved out of the house, she found a way to add college back into the mix.

However, to her despair, when she returned to Stritch to resume her program, she learned that her previous credits were no longer valid. The time that had lapsed from when she first began was enough for credentialing requirements to change, causing her previous credits to become void.

More bad news

This wasn’t the only setback she faced in the years ahead. There were conflicting messages from academic counselors as she attempted to earn some of her general education credits at a reduced rate from a nearby college. The miscommunications resulted in Hazley having to take three extra courses.

And in 2020, there was, of course, the disruption of COVID. Added to the strain of the pandemic, Hazley abruptly lost her father, niece, and brother within the span of three months. The men died of aggressive forms of cancer and her niece suffered a fatal brain aneurism.

When she entered the 2022-23 academic year at Stritch, she was just a few semesters away from completion. Then the news came that Stritch would close at the end of the 2023 semester. Hazley found herself scrambling alongside hundreds of her Stritch peers to find a suitable transfer option.

Everywhere she turned the message was seemingly the same: a minimum of two years or 30 credits to earn her BSN from the new school.

“What were my options?” Hazley posed. “It was either find something or give up, and giving up wasn’t an option at this point.”

Prepped for professional pinning

Finally, she approached Concordia.

“I got here and Concordia heard my story and opened up their arms and hearts to me,” she said. “The amount of learning I’ve had in my short time here has been tremendous. There is not a single weak link among the professors at Concordia.”

Concordia heard my story and opened up their arms and hearts to me.

Muriel Hazley, (BSN ’23) Cardinal Stritch transfer student

Beyond her CUW professors, Hazley says she couldn’t have done it without the support of several key individuals. She cited her CUW academic guidance counselor, Katie Eippert, for helping her navigate the transfer, her children, and her sponsors, Bill and Agatha Coleman, who financially supported her through Concordia’s Adopt-a-Student program

Tomorrow evening, Hazley will participate in the CUW School of Nursing pinning ceremony. The tradition sees nursing graduates invite meaningful people in their lives to bestow a piece of professional memorabilia onto their white coats, symbolizing the completion of their program.   

Hazley invited Aaliyah granddaughter and youngest son’s name Airry, to do the honors.

“They’ve been there from the very beginning,” Hazley said. “The sacrifices I’ve made have not only been my own but theirs as well.”

And, of course, Hazley will be holding her mother in her heart throughout the weekend’s events.

“She’d be so proud of me,” Hazley said. “I’m proud of myself.” 

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