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Mother and daughter receiving Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees from KU

May 08, 2017

By Greg Peters

Mother-Daughter BSN
Dawn and Madi Bradley

Mother's Day will bring an odd mix of mortar boards, memories and joy to the Bradley family of Prairie Village, Kansas. On May 14, 21-year-old Madi and her 49-year-old mother, Dawn, will be don their graduation regalia and head to Lawrence for the University of Kansas Commence ceremony. There they will walk down Campanile Hill together on their way to each receiving Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees from KU.

"I have always dreamed of getting my degree to become a nurse, and the fact that I get to share this journey with my daughter makes it even better," Dawn said. "There will be a lot of tears, and probably some major celebrating."

"My mom has come a very long way in her education on top of balancing just being a mom for my three brothers and me, so I think we are both very ready for graduation," Madi said. "Walking down the hill together will feel surreal, and it will be very rewarding for both of us."

How mother and daughter ended up in the same degree program, at the same time, at the same school is quite a story. Dawn's path to a degree in nursing is a little more circuitous than most, but it follows an outline that is familiar to many women who have put their spouse's career and raising a family in front of their own education. A graduate of Buhler High School in south central Kansas, Dawn and her husband married young, and he spent five years earning a degree from Kansas State University graduating in 1990 and landing a job in Arizona.  Dawn spent the next 20 years or so being a stay-at-home mother to her kids, who are now ages 26, 24, 21 and 18.

After stops in Arizona and back in Hutchinson, the family eventually put down roots in the metro when Dawn's husband got a job in Kansas City. Once her youngest child started first grade, Dawn began working as a para-professional for special needs kids in the local school system. Being a para allowed her to be home after school and during summer breaks with her children while they were growing up.

Eventually, Dawn completed her pre-nursing program at Johnson County Community College and was on course to finish her BSN at KU in 2015 when tragedy struck. She lost her father in a car accident and ended up withdrawing from nursing school classes and retaking them the next spring.

"This was a very hard time for me, and the stress and loss of my father had an effect on my grades," she said. "Three weeks before the end of my second semester, I made the difficult decision to drop three classes because I wasn't sure I was going to pass them."

Madi, meanwhile, was busy graduating from Shawnee Mission East High School and plowing through her own pre-nursing prerequisites at KU.  So eventually Dawn and Madi ended up in the same program, at the same time, at the same school.

"At first it was kind of funny because I had never been in an academic setting with my mom, and we joked that it was going to be like 'bring your mom to class day' - every day," Madi said. "I lived at home my first year to save money, so it was nice to be able to work together and carpool when we could."

So as fate would have it, the two have sat through many of the same lectures in the same classroom during  the past two years, although they learned early on that they are not compatible sitting side by side. For Dawn, the experience has allowed her to enjoy seeing how her daughter is doing outside her family unit. And for Madi, it's been a chance to share an experience with her mom that her classmates could only envy.

"In the beginning, we sat together all the time," Dawn said. "But when we got into the semester I realized why I used to get all those calls from her teachers saying she was talking too much."

"A lot of people feel like it's a way we can support one another like we never have before," Madi said. "The nursing program can be stressful sometimes, so it's nice to have someone that I am so close to going through it with me."

Wiith graduation looming for both, some might ask who is the better student, mother or daughter? While each has her own strengths and weaknesses, they both modestly defer to the other as being better in the classroom.

"I would say mom is a better student than I am because she can stay focused better and is more driven than I am," Madi said. To which her mother counters, "Madi is a straight 'A' student, so I would say she's the better student. I have a decent GPA, but I have to work 10 times harder than her. She has it all together and I'm just trying to keep up."

If success is measured in career opportunities then both mother and daughter seem to be well on their respective ways following graduation. Pending passage of their national nursing exams, each has been offered a job to work in a hospital. Madi will be heading to Children's Mercy Hospital for a job starting in July. And Dawn has accepted a job in the mother-baby unit at The University of Kansas Hospital.

Last modified: Jun 19, 2018