By Victoria Bourne

When Michelle Frazier was 8 months old, she had open-heart surgery to correct a congenital murmur.

Although she was too young to remember, it’s a moment that shaped her desire to pursue a career in healthcare. She spent the ensuing years in and out of medical facilities like Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters for regular cardiology checkups to ensure her heart was “exactly where it needed to be,” she said.

“I just really loved seeing how nurses and doctors worked and (their) being able to give back,” said Frazier, who at 23 was recently cleared from regular monitoring. “I knew I wanted to give back in that same sense.”

And while Frazier knew healthcare was her goal, she wasn’t quite sure what steps to take to get there. When she started at Old Dominion University in 2018, majoring in psychology was in her sights. “But I realized pretty soon that wasn't really what I was looking for,” Frazier said. “I do love psychology, but I realized I wanted to be more hands-on and in the field.”

She determined that nursing was the direction she needed to go. She changed majors, and on Saturday, during ODU’s fall commencement ceremony, Frazier will not only receive her Bachelor of Science degree in nursing, but she’ll lead the rest of her graduating classmates as an Outstanding Scholar Award winner and banner carrier for the School of Nursing.

“I’m super nervous, but I'm really excited,” Frazier said of her banner carrier role. “I mean, I did work really hard for this, so I feel like everybody should be getting the same experience. But to be chosen for this kind of honor is just overwhelming and exciting and many emotions all at the same time.”

Frazier, a Hampton resident and a first-generation student, pursued her associate degree at Virginia Peninsula Community College and her bachelor's degree through ODUGlobal concurrently – all while working as a part-time server at a local restaurant.

“Honestly, I look back and I think, ‘I don't know how the heck I did that,’” Frazier said. “I really just wanted to get it all finished and complete and just be 100% focused on my patients when the time came.”

Frazier said she was surprised how seamlessly she was able to transition into ODU’s online nursing program and felt it neatly aligned with her clinical studies at VPCC, where she earned her associate degree in the spring. Her ODU advisor, Connie Estep, provided invaluable guidance along the way, Frazier said.

“We did a Zoom meeting and she kind of explained everything to me,” Frazier said, including providing details on classes and advice on which to take when, depending on the semester.

“She has been a great student to work with,” said Estep, a student success director for ODUGlobal. “She carried 13 credits during our shortened summer semester and was still able to pass the National Council Licensure Examination and is now a licensed RN.” 

Estep also noted that Frazier maintained a 3.93 GPA in her nursing major courses with ODU.

Frazier admits remote learning posed challenges, but she appreciated the flexibility of being able to take classes around her schedule and in many cases getting course syllabi in advance so she could plot out important dates in her planner.

“Don't get me wrong, there were a few days where I was just like, it would just be easier to do nothing,” Frazier recalled. “But for the most part, I did try to stay on top of it just because so much was going on, and I wanted to make sure I was getting those deadlines for both (schools).”

Beth Tremblay, assistant professor and undergraduate community health coordinator in the School of Nursing, had Frazier as a student last summer. What stood out to Tremblay was Frazier’s inquisitive mind. “Her logic was really good and clear, and her ability to understand and apply theory was excellent,” Tremblay said.

She also said Frazier was a great communicator, a crucial skill and “a huge cornerstone of nursing.”  

“It's a real joy for me as faculty to have students like Michelle, who are engaged and interested,” Tremblay said. “I love that she's the future of nursing because she's got all the right elements. We're just really excited to have people like her come into this field.”

Frazier said she hopes to return to ODU one day in pursuit of her master’s, but for now she’s already well on her way to using the skills and knowledge she’s acquired over the years: In October, she got “the perfect job” as a pediatric nurse in a Williamsburg practice that’s part of the CHKD Medical Group.

“It's been a fun journey for me,” Frazier said.