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For Country and Community: A Voyage to Healing

Georgian Court University 2024 Student Spotlight Laura Umana Solano

On the USS Mason, Laura UmanaSolano embarked on a transformative journey, circumnavigating the globe while proudly serving her country in the Navy for five years. Throughout this period, she gained invaluable lessons that not only instilled deep gratitude for America but also played a pivotal role in shaping her character and revealing her true passion.

Hailing from Costa Rica and now calling Neptune, N.J. home, Laura has always felt a deep pull to serve others. “Giving back to the community and making a positive impact have become central to who I am,” she explains. “Nursing is the perfect fit – a profession driven by service, where you can touch lives at their most vulnerable.” Laura adds, “The Navy instilled many lessons in me, not just about caring for myself, but also about caring for my shipmates – skills that directly translate to nursing.”

Discovering her passion, Laura embarked on her next journey: finding a university to refine her skills. Ultimately, she found Georgian Court, drawn to its intimate atmosphere and strong sense of community. What appealed most was the personalized approach the professors took in nurturing their students’ growth and the opportunity to form meaningful connections with classmates. “Here,” she stated, “everyone is known by name, not just a number.”

“College seemed like an unreachable goal for me,” she reflected. “My wife and I made numerous sacrifices, including serving in the Navy, just to make it possible.” Financial constraints threatened to overshadow her dream, but Georgian Court helped make her dream a reality. Substantial scholarships combined with the university’s dedication to military personnel as a yellow ribbon school, along with assistance from Veterans Affairs, provided the support she needed to pursue a degree.

“Georgian Court University has played a pivotal role in my journey towards becoming a nurse,” Laura emphasized. “The Hackensack Meridian Health School of Nursing stands out for its commitment to students’ well-being,” she continued, expressing deep gratitude for her professors’ support, particularly during challenging times like being on active duty during exams.

“My first two semesters in the nursing program were very challenging. With some family members falling ill, it weighed heavily on me,” she explained. “Dr. Stephanie Chung became more than a professor; she became my pillar of support, helping me navigate personal challenges while excelling in my studies. Without her, I don’t think I would have made it this far.”

As one of just three veteran students at GCU, she was thrilled to connect with them and Dr. Joshua Burns, a veteran and Director of Military and Veteran Services and Outreach.

“He not only listened to our needs but also took action. He initiated the veterans chapter, which is crucial to providing support and smoothing our transition into civilian life.” She added, “Dr. Burns has cultivated a strong support network for veterans, significantly reducing stress and ensuring that individuals, like myself, receive essential assistance within the GCU community.”

Laura is a dedicated student: she has been consistently recognized on the Dean’s and President’s lists and is a member of the Psi Psi Chapter of the Sigma Nursing Honor Society, the Kappa Zeta Chapter of the Alpha Sigma Lambda National Honor Society, and the SALUTE Veterans National Honor Society.

During her nursing clinical rotations, Laura developed a deep appreciation for geriatric nursing. “Some patients found themselves alone, without family nearby to offer comfort,” she shared. “I felt privileged to step in, listen to their stories, and provide the support they needed,” she reflected.

While balancing nursing school, clinicals, and active duty in the Navy Reserves, she aims to transition into a nursing role within the Navy post-graduation.

“I aspire to join the Naval Reserve Nursing Corps, combining my passions for healthcare and serving my country.” She noted that furthering her education to earn a master’s or doctorate may be a goal for the future, but right now, “My immediate priority lies in refining my skills and excelling as a nurse.” On commencement day, Laura will proudly receive her Bachelor’s Degree, surrounded by cheering friends and family.

Aerial view of GCU.

About Georgian Court University

Georgian Court University is a leading regional university that provides a transformative education, preparing students for ethical leadership and service in the Catholic Mercy tradition. Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is Central and South Jersey’s only Catholic university. The university has a strong liberal arts core and a historic special concern for women.

As a forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, GCU is known for expanding possibility for more than 1,900 students of all faiths and backgrounds in 35+ undergraduate majors and 10+ graduate programs. The GCU Lions compete in 16 NCAA Division II sports in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC). In 2020, GCU was named a Best Value College by and a Best Bang for the Buck (Northeast) by Washington Monthly. High student retention and graduation rates make GCU a Top Performer on Social Mobility on U.S. News & World Reports rankings, and in 2024, GCU was named one of the best Online Master’s Colleges in New Jersey.

The main campus is in Lakewood, New Jersey, on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court, which is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, also serves students through its Center for Professional Studies, and at other locations, including GCU at Brookdale, and through multiple online degree and certificate programs.