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A Longhorn Tradition: BSN student follows family footsteps to UT, but charts her own course in nursing

Posted: Feb. 22, 2013

Laura Clegg

Laura Clegg practicing her nursing skills with the human patient simulators
at the School of Nursing Skills Lab.

Laura Clegg, a second semester junior nursing student, seems right at home as she walks the halls of the School of Nursing. It may be because she knew from the start of her college career that she wanted to major in nursing. Or that, after excelling in her first semester, she was placed in the honors program. Or perhaps it’s because the University of Texas at Austin is simply a second home to her.

“My parents and my dad’s mom and siblings and my mom’s siblings, my dad’s parents and my great-great grandfather, all graduated from the University of Texas,” Clegg explained recently. “My older brother Kevin is a senior in mechanical engineering and my younger brother Ryan will enter next fall as a Plan II freshman.”

Indeed, her family has had five successive generations attend the university and, for that, they were featured recently in a story in Alcalde, a publication of the Texas Exes, the official alumni association of the University of Texas, along with three other families of fifth-generation Longhorns.

Ryan, Laura and Kevin Clegg

Fifth-generation Longhorns (left to right)
Ryan, Laura and Kevin Clegg

Although she has continued in her family’s tradition, Laura is the only one involved in health care. She chose nursing, she said, because of her experience as a patient following a waterskiing accident a few years ago. “My nurses were the ones who were there all the time, making sure everything was working and that I was comfortable.”

She was so impressed with her treatment that not along after being released from the hospital, the Houston native spent a few weeks as an intern at Foundation Surgical Hospital. There she discovered an innate ability to empathize with patients. Laura knows, however, that having an ability to empathize is only part of the job’s requirements. “Nursing is definitely a commitment — a huge commitment — but worth it. It’s often about going the extra mile.”

As an honors student, Laura is well acquainted with those extra miles. Part of her additional honors coursework involves a research project, for which she has chosen to complete a secondary analysis of a longitudinal dataset on the eating disorders of adolescents. Mentoring her on the project is one of her professors, Dr. Lynn Rew, whose research with adolescents has been funded for several years by the National Institute of Nursing Research.

“Laura dived right in to the data set and is currently finishing her final paper on the project,” said Dr. Rew. “She chose a challenging topic and has some exciting findings to share.”

These days, when not in classes or practicums or working on her research project, Laura likes to unwind with friends or in yoga classes. She’s still considering her options after graduation in spring 2014, but knows she wants to get experience in the field, whether in an emergency department, trauma unit or working with children.

More than halfway to getting her baccalaureate degree, she’s well acquainted with the challenges incoming nursing students face and offers some good advice: “Stick with it; don’t get discouraged! A lot of time I thought ‘I’m done with this’,” she said smiling. “But I’m glad I stuck with it.”