Alum Pursues Master’s in Public Policy After Graduating from WCU

Derreck D. and Other Graduates

Derreck D. always knew that he wanted to help people. He started his educational journey as a philosophy major hoping to learn more about who people are and how they think with the goal of making a difference. However, Derreck soon discovered that a nursing career would allow him to help in a more tangible way.

“I was not liking the job prospects after looking at being a philosophy major,” Derreck said. “You can go into law or academia and neither of those seemed tangible enough for me.”

Derreck realized the diverse opportunities nursing could bring to his career.

Now working in the intensive care unit, Derreck appreciates the high-intensity situations he dealt with in West Coast University’s simulation labs.

“To this day, I still feel like it was great to be thrown into some situations because again it prepared me for the rest of my career working in the ICU,” Derreck said. “Staying calm and having experienced and rehearsed critical situations for me was like ‘wow.’”

Derreck graduated in 2018 with his Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the WCU-Texas campus. From there, he said furthering his education was a natural progression, and he recently graduated with his Master of Public Affairs.

“The other parts of the nursing career that spoke to me centered around policy,” he said.

After taking courses in disaster management and public health, Derreck said his eyes were opened to the broad reach of nursing. He realized how nurses are involved in many different types of community dynamics.

“We spent a lot of time thinking about how there is a relationship between community disparities,” he said. “I started having an idea that once people reach the hospital, as a public health official, it’s already too late.”

His interest in getting involved in policy on a larger scale is what Derreck said laid the foundation to return to school.

“Once I started (grad school) in Austin, I was part of an evidence-based poster project,” he said.

Through their research on post-stroke depression recovery, they found good evidence for the benefits of music therapy. By playing music for stroke patients in rehab hospitals, they saw improvements in post-stroke depression.

“We gathered some data, looked at best practices, and analyzed the procedures at our own hospital. Then we presented the possibility for a change,” Derreck said. “We won that poster project and it reinforced the concept for me that policy is really powerful and made me question, “Where else can policy go?’”

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