Starting Early

Even though she is only in her second semester of college, freshman Rachael Hillyer is already making a name for herself across campus. In addition to playing on Mizzou’s club soccer team and joining Pi Phi Sorority, she is the Sinclair School of Nursing’s first Discovery Fellow.

The Discovery Fellows Program allows eligible freshmen to participate in mentored research in their academic area. While in high school in St. Louis, Hillyer began discovering her passion for genetics research. The Cor Jesus Academy graduate had the opportunity as a high school student to participate in research on plant mutations with the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

But she also knew she wanted to interact with people. As the daughter of a nurse, Hillyer had initially rejected the idea of becoming a nurse herself. However, while shadowing a pharmacist at a local hospital, she found herself drawn to the nurses and the work they did with patients.

“I started to realize I really liked patient interaction,” she says. “I kept looking away to see what the nurses were doing.”

After being accepted into the Discovery Fellows Program, Hillyer was appointed to work with Professor of Nursing Jane Armer, PhD, RN, FAAN. Recently inducted into the International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame, Armer is well-known for her research on lymphedema, and Hillyer cannot believe she gets the opportunity to work so closely with her.

“She is the smartest person I’ve ever met,” Hillyer says. “I’m learning so much from the research I’m doing, but I’m learning even more just from being near Dr. Armer.”

Throughout her first semester, Hillyer acclimated herself to Armer’s research and is now becoming a more active researcher. This semester, she is attending breast cancer support groups to talk with participants about lymphedema, transcribing interviews and creating a poster for World Lymphedema Day on March 6.

Armer has been impressed with Hillyer’s work and sees a bright future for her.

“Rachel is bright, curious and eager to learn about nursing and research,” she says. “It is a pleasure to work together, as her eagerness to explore new areas brings renewed energy to our research. The future is so bright for Rachel as she combines her passion for genetics and her love of working with people through the profession of nursing.”

Despite being only 18, Hillyer has big plans for the future. Later in her college career, she hopes to conduct research on how genetics impact lymphedema. As for after graduation, Hillyer sees herself serving patients as a bedside nurse.

“Eventually, I see myself doing more research because I love the independence it brings and I love discovering new things,” she says.

And while at first she didn’t want to leave high school, Hillyer now feels at home and is certain she made the right college choice.

“I love the big school atmosphere, but at the same time, the nursing school makes the campus seem a lot smaller because of the family atmosphere,” she says. “Mizzou is a really good place for me. I don’t think I would have opportunities like this elsewhere.”

Accelerated BSN & PhD Students Selected for Deaton Scholar Program

Accelerated BSN students India Bloom and Jayde Sharp and PhD student Laura Remy were recently selected to participate in the Deaton Scholar Program (DSP) with the Deaton Institute for University Leadership in International Development. As a scholar, they will receive peer-to-peer guidance throughout the spring 2018 semester from selected mentors to improve academic motivation, professional development and community involvement – as per their selected thematic interests. Congratulations, India, Jayde and Laura!

RSVP today for the 28th Annual Award Banquet & Alumni Reunion

The Sinclair School of Nursing and the MU Nursing Alumni Association cordially invite you to attend our upcoming events:

Awards Banquet
Friday, April 20, 2018
6:00 p.m.
Country Club of Missouri
1300 Woodrail Avenue
Columbia, MO 65203

Alumni Reunion
Saturday, April 21, 2018
8:30 a.m.
University Hospital


This event wouldn’t be possible without our sponsors! Thank you!
Platinum-level sponsors: MU Health Care and Truman VA 
Gold-level sponsor: CoxHealth
Silver-level sponsors: Boone Hospital Center, Citizen’s Memorial Healthcare, and SSM Health

SSON Launches Post-Doctoral Fellowship Program

The Sinclair School of Nursing (SSON) is now accepting applications for a one-year, distance mediated post-doctoral fellowship. The full-time fellowship will begin summer 2018 and will provide mentoring, research training, educational training, interdisciplinary research experiences, and professional and career development.

Applications are due April 1, 2018.


  • Mentorship from faculty with active programs of research
  • Research and educational training
  • Career development
  • Interdisciplinary research training and experience
  • Stipend, tuition support, research conference travel allowance, laptop and pilot project costs

Research productivity outcomes:

  • Mock review of pilot project
  • Presentation at one University of Missouri event
  • Presentation at one research conference
  • At least two first-authored journal manuscripts
  • Al least one grant application
  • Attendance at at least six lectures/seminars relevant to program of research


  • Completed research-intensive PhD or DNS doctoral degree
  • Substantive content or methodological match with SSON PhD research mentor(s)
  • Able to devote 100% effort to fellowship activities
  • Graduate of a nursing program which prepares graduates for professional licensure
  • U.S. citizen or valid Permanent Resident Card USCIS Form I-551 (NIH Requirement)


Contact Vicki Conn, PhD, RN, FAAN, Potter-Brinton Professor & Associate Dean for Research, 573.882.0231,

You can learn more about the program here.

Goals and Growth

An active duty military officer, father of six and doctoral student in MU’s Sinclair School of Nursing, John Rossi is the walking definition of balance. Not only does he serve as a full-time military nurse, but he’s also an incredibly involved parent, sharing homeschooling duties with his wife, Nancy, for five of their six kids. Although some days can feel more chaotic than others, John has been a hard worker and goal setter for his entire adult life. So when he set his sights on finding a highly ranked graduate nursing program that would fit into his busy life, MU’s SSON climbed to the top of his list.

“Since I’ve started, I’ve seen nothing but excellence,” says John, who’s working toward his doctorate in psych mental health and family practice, with a minor in education. “Every experience has been a fulfilling one so far, and everything that I’ve been involved with at the university has allowed me to advance the next step in achieving my ultimate goal.”

Although John’s journey to the DNP program was a practical progression in hindsight, it’s a long way from where he started nearly two decades ago. John joined the military right out of high school in 2001 and spent nine years as an enlisted member of the U.S. Navy as a helicopter search and rescue swimmer. He enjoyed a successful career and a lot of opportunities, but the repeat deployments were becoming more and more difficult with his growing family at home.

“When it all came down to it, I didn’t want to deploy and be away from my family anymore,” says John, whose kids are now 12, 10, 8, 6, 4 and 1. “So I separated from the military and went back to school at Brigham Young University.”

It was at Brigham Young where John earned his nursing degree — a Bachelor of Science in nursing and gerontology.

“I quickly realized that life isn’t as simple as you think,” John says of deciding what was next after graduation. “I had always wanted to be an officer in the military, though, and now I had the ability. So I applied for commission in the Air Force to be a nurse.”

That was three years ago. Today, John is stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, just east of Dayton, Ohio, where he works full time as a nurse at Wright-Patterson Medical Center.

Back to school

It wasn’t long after starting his first full-time nursing position that John realized he wanted to return to school for his doctorate degree, which probably didn’t come as a surprise to those who know him well. John and Nancy, who have been married for 15 years, homeschool their children, with John teaching science and history and Nancy teaching the rest. Nancy also recently went back to school for her bachelor’s degree.

“Besides the military, we’ve been nothing but education and full steam ahead,” John says. “My ultimate goal is to retire in eight years from the military; then I’d like to have a small practice of my own and have my primary job be working as an educator who teaches at the university level.”  

John says the structure of SSON’s program itself has been a big factor in his ability to balance his various responsibilities — both the expected and unexpected.

“The DNP program is set up in such a way that it allows me to accomplish my goals in the time I need to do it in,” John says. “For me as a military member, my life can change at the drop of a hat, and the school as been nothing but supportive in this endeavor, making sure that if I deploy or something happens, we have a plan for what we need to do and, more importantly, a plan for what I can do when I get back to continue seamlessly with the program.”

He also notes a difference in his approach to nursing since beginning at MU.

“It really has focused my abilities and added emphasis to my previous education by giving me more content to work with,” he says. “I can already see what a better nurse I’ve become because of what I’ve learned through the program.”

‘The first step is starting’

John’s balancing of a full-time workload with family life and school means there are no 18-credit-hour semesters in the cards, and the path to the finish line is slow but steady. Taking a course or two at a time, he’s on track to graduate in May 2022. But it’s not a race — it’s about the end goal.

 “A graduate degree doesn’t happen overnight, but you take it one day at a time,” he says. “Commit to it, and then start the progress. You can figure out the ABCs and XYZs later. The first step is starting.”

Click here for more on the Sinclair School of Nursing’s DNP program, including entry pathways and areas of study