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Changing Lives Update – Kristen Graziano ’11

(click image for a video update on Kristen)

Back in September of 2010, Robert Morris University unveiled its “Change A Life” ad campaign. Through six TV commercials, 24 radio spots, and 38 billboards across the Pittsburgh region, the campaign featured stories of how RMU changes our students’ lives, and how they change the lives of others.

One of those stories was that of Kristen Graziano ‘11.

Kristen, who at the time was studying for her bachelor of science in nursing, spent two weeks in Washington, D.C., with several other RMU students helping the homeless. One day she was standing on a street corner trying to sell copies of “Street Sense“, a bi-weekly newspaper largely written by the homeless.

“I’m standing there on the corner,” said Kristen, “and some lady comes up to me, says, ‘Get a job.’ And for the first time in my life, I knew what it was like to actually be homeless.”

It was an eye-opening experience for her, and it helped her decide on a capstone project topic for her doctoral work at RMU, where she’s working toward her Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) degree in the Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner track. Doing most of her research at Light of Life Ministries in Pittsburgh, Kristen is conducting a qualitative study looking at the cultural meaning of mental well-being among homeless men. She also teaches part-time as a clinical instructor and a graduate assistant for the School of Nursing.

“I really enjoy it. Teaching is a huge passion of mine. I am also the TA for the undergraduate students, which also involves a lot of teaching. So it is a lot of fun.”

Most recently she was chosen for the Jonas Salk Fellowship, an educational program of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation that brings together graduate students from multiple health care disciplines for discussion and education.

When she’s not working toward her D.N.P., Kristen still works part-time at Allegheny General Hospital in the Neuro ICU, where she serves as the TA for the undergraduate professors. “It is an amazing experience. I will also be a clinical instructor for one of the undergraduate courses at AGH in the fall term.”

Kristen thinks RMU’s “Changing Lives” theme connects with so many people because it gives them the opportunity to stop and take a look at some of the things that go on in the world. “From the homeless issue to the multiple issues in Nicaragua, it makes people realize that you can do something so small and change someone’s life in a very big way.”

She says that being featured in the Change A Life campaign gave her the opportunity to share her story.

“When people inquired about the campaign,” she says, “I had the chance to tell them about my work with the homeless. On more than one occasion, this sparked a deeper conversation. Who knows—maybe I changed a few lives that way too?”

In the future she hopes to open a psychiatric clinic for people on the street.

“I am a busy girl, but I enjoy every bit of it!”

Written by Valentine J. Brkich

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