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Bachelor of Science in Nursing graduate is commissioned as officer in Navy Nursing Corps

May 19, 2016

By Greg Peters

David Williams and Justin Williams

For the first time in recent memory, a University of Kansas School of Nursing graduate has been commissioned as an active military officer during an official Navy Ceremony on the University of Kansas Medical Center campus.

Gunnery Sgt. Justin Williams, who received his diploma last weekend from the KU School of Nursing, was commissioned as Ensign Justin Williams in the United States Navy during a ceremony in the School of Nursing Atrium.

"We are very proud of Justin and his accomplishments in the School of Nursing, said KU School of Nursing Dean Sally Maliski, Ph.D., RN, FAAN. "He has been an exemplary student leader."

A highlight of the May 17 ceremony was when Williams received a ceremonial "first salute" via teleconnection from his brother, Austin, who is serving in Jordan with the Air National Guard. During the ceremony, Williams' and father, David, placed his new rank boards on his shoulders and his sister, Michaela, presented him with his Navy hat after he was sworn in by Lt. Sharon Crowder, a local Navy Nurse Corps officer. 

"KU has been instrumental in my transition from enlisted to an officer," said Williams, who will begin his nursing career this summer at Walter Reed National Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. "I am excited for my role as a leader in nursing, serving at the bedside, on the front lines or in the boardroom."

Inspired by 9/11

A 2002 graduate of Forest Park High School in Woodbridge, Virginia, Williams joined the Marine Corps in June of that year. He had originally enlisted through the Delayed Entry Program prior to 9/11, but with the attacks in Washington D.C. being so close to his home, Williams was motivated to graduate high school and report to boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina.

"From a young age, I knew I wanted to serve my country," said Williams. "I knew before I headed to college, though, that I could use more discipline, so I decided to enlist."

Prior to coming to the School of Nursing, Williams served on assignments in the United States and deployments abroad. His foreign tours included stops in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Upon returning home from Afghanistan in 2012, Williams was selected for the Navy Nurse Corps Medical Enlisted Commissioning Program. Williams finished his required prerequisites for nursing school while still on active duty with the Marines. Williams credits Cyndie Schudel, KU School of Nursing undergraduate programs consultant and adviser, with helping shepherd him through the application process while he was deployed in Afghanistan and stationed in San Diego.

"I chose KU because of the prestige of the program and its compatibility with Medical Enlisted Commissioning Program," WIlliams said. "

From gunnery sergeant to BSN

Williams began officially working on his BSN in June 2014 in the School of Nursing. He attended classes at KU Medical Center through the Medical Enlisted Commissioning Program after seeking a conditional release from the Marines.

The program is open to all active-duty men and women in the United States Navy and Marine Corps, and provides a pathway to a commission in the Navy Nurse Corps. The Medical Enlisted Commissioning Program gives candidates the opportunity to earn a BSN and then be appointed as an ensign in the Navy Nursing Corps.

While in the School of Nursing, Williams kept busy both in and out of the classroom. Among his accomplishments, Williams is a past president of the Association of Undergraduate Students in Nursing, and he served as vice president of the Student Governing Council for KU Medical Center.

Williams was honored with the Jeanne Quesenbury Award during the School of Nursing's Student Recognition Ceremony May 14. The award was established in 2003 to honor Quesenbury who was a KU School of Nursing graduate and faculty member and is given to a graduating BSN student who displays outstanding clinical skills. The undergraduate students and faculty select the recipient.

He was also the recipient of the Melba Rose Lungstrom Morris Nursing Scholarship, given annually to a nursing student with strong ties to military and community service. In March, he spent time in India as part of the Robinson Scholars program, which Williams says helped scratch an itch for travel he developed in the Marines.

"I get a little stir crazy at times," Williams said. "This opportunity allowed me to see nursing in another culture and will help me provide culturally competent care in the future. I have a strong desire for worldwide service and hope to deploy in support of our nation's battles and assist in humanitarian missions."

Last modified: Jul 26, 2018