This article is part of a series featuring some of this year’s outstanding graduating students, nominated by their academic school or college or another University program in which they participated. Check for additional profiles of students in the Class of 2013 on UConn Today from now through Commencement.
Coming out of high school, Kylie Angell ’13 (NUR) had the long-held impression that math and science were not among her strengths. And when she took her first chemistry courses at UConn, they indeed proved to be far from easy. But for Angell, they presented exactly the sort of challenge that triggered her interest. Initially a history major, she transferred to the School of Nursing in time for her junior year – and has wholeheartedly taken on many more challenges since.
“I just kind of looked past what the expectations were for me and made my own path,” says the 23-year-old from Trumbull, Conn.
Wise beyond her years, Angell has persevered through far more than difficult college coursework. In hospital emergency departments, children’s medical centers, and community clinics during her years as a nursing student, Angell has done everything from comforting infant victims of shaken baby syndrome who are suffering from hemorrhage and brain damage to serving in trauma situations and assisting with post-mortem patient care.
“When you get home, it makes your life a lot more valuable, and it makes you that much more set on influencing other people’s lives in positive ways while they’re on this planet,” Angell says. “I feel like it’s my duty to make everyone else’s life better for as long as I can.”
One patient Angell encountered was living with a frightening degenerative illness that has no known cure. After fulfilling her necessary nursing duties with the patient, she could not shake the sense that he and his wife were holding something back.
“I pulled up a chair, sat down, and said, ‘Would you like to talk about anything? I can help you out.’” With both the patient and his wife suddenly in tears, Angell encouraged them to open up about their fears and emotional struggles with the disease. “They talked about how scary it was, how expensive it was, how they had to travel to another hospital out of state to get care, and how their son was affected by it.”
Deeply moved by the experience, Angell immediately went about fundraising for a foundation dedicated to research on the disease. “I encounter a lot of instances where I can have a small impact on someone’s life, even if it’s being able to provide them with a little bit of TLC – give them crackers, raise the bed up, and listen to their story,” she says.
As required by UConn’s nursing program, Angell has worked and interned in various medical facilities at least 18 hours a week each semester, but also does so during her summers, at times working up to 12½ hours at a stretch without a break.
“It is really intense,” she says. “You have to use your judgment. And if you think that something is wrong, you have to say something, speak up. If you think that you’ve made a mistake, you have to have accountability for it. It’s a lot of responsibility – these are people’s lives.”
But speaking up is not just something Angell does on the job. President of the School of Nursing’s Class of 2013 and a recent recipient of the Spirer/Dueker Student Life Humanitarian Achievement and the UConn Nursing Outstanding Woman Scholar awards, Angell has also used her time at UConn to find her voice as a student activist and leader.
In 2011, she co-founded the student organization Revolution Against Rape, which strives to raise awareness about sexual assault on college campuses and end the rape culture through reform, education, and activism.
“It’s been really enlightening, but also bittersweet,” she says. “You see there are so many people willing to be involved with this cause, but then you find out why they’re involved. And you realize that we all have this connection; that’s why we’re fighting.”
With hopes of landing a position as a registered nurse come graduation, Angell has her sights ultimately set on obtaining a Ph.D. in nursing with a concentration in health policy. At a recent student policy summit with the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses held in Washington, D.C., Angell met with the legislative aides of Connecticut senators to advocate for nursing research.
“It really inspired me, because it taught me that I can use my nursing degree to work in government one day and to be an advocate for nursing,” she says. “I want people going into nursing to realize how important it is to get involved – whether it’s in student government at the university level, an organization in a hospital, or a national nursing association. It’s really important for nurses to speak up, because we have very little representation on a national level.”
Angell has come a long way. “It definitely surprises me that I’m a nursing major sometimes – but in a very, very good way,” she says.
And yet even with her many accomplishments, she is genuinely humble, going about her day-to-day life as a nursing student with a knack for keeping things in perspective. “I think it’s always been ingrained in me to try my best,” she says. “I don’t have to be perfect, and I don’t have to be the best, but I have to try my best. Looking at all of my professors and how accomplished they are just gives me a lot of motivation. … The School of Nursing has been my home.”