Junior Kaitlyn Spaudie’s face lights up when she talks about the project she’s working on in her Communications in Health Care class.

“We’re researching community health initiatives and writing proposals for services either in the Valpo community or our home communities,” she said.

Spaudie is working toward a Bachelor of Science in Health Care Leadership — one of several new degrees in the College of Nursing and Health Professions aimed at giving students a broad range of career opportunities.

The added programs include a master’s degree in health administration, a master’s degree in international human services and counseling, and a joint Bachelor of Science in Health Science and Master of Physician Assistant Studies program, which is scheduled to begin enrolling students in 2015. All of these degrees are designed to prepare students for careers in a variety of health care contexts.

Spaudie’s proposal is for a program that recruits volunteers to spend time with homebound, elderly women and men.

She got the inspiration for the project from her work as a lifeguard at the City of Westlake Recreation Center. Talking with the senior citizens who visit the pool is one of her favorite parts of the job. “The stories they tell me — oh my goodness,” she said. “They’re really awesome people.”

Someday Spaudie would love to work with the elderly, though she’s not entirely sure yet in what capacity. She knows she’ll have plenty of options with the degree she’s pursuing.

Janet Brown, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Nursing and Health Professions is glad to see the College offering these new options to students. “For 45 years, Valparaiso University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions has worked to remain at the forefront of health care education,” said Brown. “We are excited to now be able to offer these new degree paths alongside our prestigious bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs in nursing.”

These new programs prepare students for a number of administrative and professional roles in the health care field, and that’s something Spaudie is enthusiastic about. “I think it’s great,” she said. “I have found that people in the program are thinking about a lot of different careers.”

Some of Spaudie’s classmates want to go into nursing, others are considering graduate school, and the rest are thinking about a variety of fields in medical administration like public relations and management. Studying with such a diverse group of people exposes her to distinct opportunities and experiences.

And being one of the first students in the new program allows Spaudie the opportunity to see a different side of many of the College’s nursing professors.

“The professors have all of these experiences beyond nursing,” Spaudie said. “They teach us things they’ve learned about organization and strategy. I love getting strategic insights from my professors.”

Spaudie recently had a chance to accompany her professors to a dinner with the College of Nursing and Health Professions’ National Advisory Council. Made up of medical professionals from across the country, the council advises the College on curriculum and program decisions.

“Many of the National Council members began as nurses but are now in more organizational roles,” Spaudie said. “We discussed organizational structures and how the new Affordable Care Act is changing the medical field.”

With all of this personal attention and hands-on experience, Spaudie and her classmates will have a wealth of options and experience to draw from when they graduate.

“I feel like each course that I take is giving me more ideas for what I can do,” Spaudie shared. “It makes me really excited.”