Taking the lead | Spalding nursing student Scotty Brooks holds key positions in university, state, national organizations

Steve Jones

Why be a leader of one student organization, when you can be a leader of many – including all the way up to the national level?

That’s the mind-set Spalding University School of Nursing student Scotty Brooks has fervently adopted. Among his multiple leadership roles, Brooks is breaking ground for Spalding by being its first student since at least the 1980s to serve on the National Student Nurses’ Association board.

Brooks has also begun a 2018-19 school year in which he’ll serve as the new president of both the Spalding Student Government Association and the Kentucky Association of Nursing Students. The latter led to his national position – as chair of the council of presidents of state nursing associations. By virtue of that role, he is an ex officio member of the NSNA board.

Brooks, who is in his senior year in Spalding’s bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program, is also president of the Spalding University Nursing Students organization, and he expects to lead a big group of his Spalding peers to that KANS conference that he’ll preside over Sept. 28-30 at 21c Museum Hotel, just blocks from Spalding’s campus.

The NSNA Midyear Career Planning Conference will also be held in downtown Louisville, Nov. 8-11 at the Galt House.

To hold leadership roles at the state and national level “means a lot to me personally in the sense that it’s giving me a lot of opportunities for growth and development in my career and my education,” Brooks said. “It means even more that Spalding University is getting the name and the recognition that it deserves.”

Now 30 years old and having previously served as Spalding SGA vice president for nontraditional students, Brooks’ zest for the outdoors led him somewhat serendipitously to the Spalding School of Nursing.

After graduating from Trinity High School, he spent two years at the University of Kentucky as an architecture major. He said his heart was never in it, and he left school to travel.

He rediscovered a childhood passion for backpacking and rock-climbing and began to work as a nature guide.

Eventually, through his guiding business, he sought certification as a wilderness first responder, and in the training process, he said, “I sort of fell in love with medicine.”

One way, he concluded, that he could pursue both loves – guiding and medicine – was to become a search-and-rescue nurse. One of his clients suggested he look at Spalding’s nursing school, and that led to a new and rewarding climb toward a new career.

He enrolled at Spalding in the fall of 2015. Former Spalding Dean of Undergraduate Education Mistalene Calleroz-White served as Brooks’ success coach during his first year and encouraged him to seek out leadership positions on campus and through his major.

School of Nursing faculty members Patty Spurr, who is chair of the school, Becky Gesler and Christina Meek encouraged him, too.

“It’s made me realize that even though I’m 30 now, I’m totally reliving the college experience and doing what I’d wished I’d done when I was 18,” Brooks said. “… I’m just trying to really take advantage of my time here and experience all that I can. Not everyone gets to go to college once, much less twice.”

Gesler offered high praise for Brooks.

“Scotty approaches leadership experiences with a passion and represents Spalding University in the best possible way,” she said. “We are privileged that Scotty chose Spalding for his college experience. Scotty will pave the way for the Spalding School of Nursing in regard to state and national exposure. Under Scotty’s leadership, nursing will be forever changed.”

Brooks said he’s proud to represent Spalding and the School of Nursing because of the positive experiences he’s had at the university.

He said he values the culture Spalding President Tori Murden McClure has tried to create in which Spalding students always feel physically, psychologically and spiritually safe but also exposed to and challenged by new ideas and ways of thinking that are outside their comfort zone.

In the School of Nursing, “I’m being challenged every single day,” Brooks said. “They push, but they want you to push back and want you to succeed. It’s just the most supporting, loving environment I’ve been in academically. The faculty and staff over there are amazing. I would absolutely recommend it to anybody.”

Brooks recalled how one semester he was struggling in a difficult nursing class and “bombed my first test.” His professor made herself available to him for an hour every week – outside her normal office hours – to review material and test-taking strategies. He ended up getting an “A” on his final exam.

“I think there is support (at universities) everywhere, but at a lot of places you have to ask for it,” Brooks said. “Here, you don’t even have to ask for it because they offer it to you.”

After school, Brooks said he hopes to fulfill his goal of becoming a rescue nurse or a flight nurse, caring for high-risk patients as they’re transferred via helicopter.

Earlier this month, Brooks got recertified as a wilderness first responder when he joined McClure and a group of faculty and staff for nearly two weeks of training and camping at the National Outdoor Leadership School in North Carolina.

Additionally, Brooks’ recent experiences in leadership positions have sparked interest in new potential career paths. He said he thinks he might be well-suited to work in jobs involving health policy and health advocacy and could be interested in Spalding’s Master of Science in Business Communication (MSBC) program with a focus in health care management, as well as the nursing school’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program.

“Nursing is really an altruistic endeavor,” he said, “and to be the best nurse I can be would mean that I would need to help the most amount of people that I could in the best way that I could. For me, given all these leadership opportunities, I think that might mean more than just bedside care.”

Beyond his involvement in nursing and nursing organizations, Brooks is eager to represent all of Spalding’s students as SGA president. Brooks said he hopes to follow in the footsteps of former President Chris Muncy – who also served as the president of KANS – in keeping SGA and the university’s Recognized Student Organizations thriving and growing in profile.

“I’m so passionate about Spalding University, and having the opportunity to work hand in hand with faculty and staff and represent the entire student body is a really big honor,” Brooks said. “To go into my senior year with that opportunity is huge for me.”

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Learn more: Spalding’s historic School of Nursing programs