The path to success is seldom straightforward, as Heather Winkler knows well. She has overcome obstacles and challenges to achieve her goals. Today, she's an assistant professor for MSUM’s School of Nursing & Healthcare Leadership, where she shares her hard-earned knowledge and experience with a new generation of undergraduate and graduate healthcare professionals.
Heather's journey began at South Dakota State University, but she soon realized she needed a smaller, more intimate school where she could receive individual attention. She enrolled at MSUM, where she explored various fields before discovering her passion for healthcare administration.
At the time, the options for online courses were minimal, which led to her pursuing a bachelor’s degree in university studies. During her undergraduate studies, Heather perfected her time management skills and study habits. These skills helped Heather as she continued her education at MSUM.
After earning her undergraduate degree, Heather pursued a position as an admitting supervisor at Avera. She then worked for a health IT company, eagerly embracing the opportunity to further her career. But she knew that she needed more education to achieve her goals, especially as healthcare administration continued to call to her.
The ever-changing nature of the healthcare field is one of the reasons Heather was drawn to it as a career.
“No two days are the same. Healthcare offers careers in a variety of departments and settings, and I enjoy the collaborative nature that departments bring to strengthen patient care and the industry as a whole,” she said.
Heather returned to MSUM to obtain a master's degree in healthcare administration (MHA). During her studies, she completed an internship at Hospice of the Red River Valley and gained valuable experience in the field. After graduation, she landed a quality data analyst position at the company.
But Heather was not done yet. She knew she wanted to pursue a doctorate in educational leadership so she could follow her dreams of teaching higher education. Her mentor, Brandi Sillerud, played a critical role in her success, teaching her the importance of being open to learning from others and providing valuable insight into the professional world.
“Brandi taught me that if you are the smartest person in the room, you are probably in the wrong room,” she says. “We each have different perspectives and insights. The ability to work collaboratively and learn from one another is essential for professional growth.”
Today, Heather applies the lessons she learned from her mentors to her own teaching style.
Heather recalls a time during her graduate education when she didn’t do well on a test. Her professor offered to let her retake the test knowing her prior score was not indicative of her work.
“That showed me that I wasn’t just a number here,” she says.
Heather aims to create a similarly supportive and inclusive classroom environment where her students feel seen and heard. She encourages them to volunteer and job shadow to better understand their community and build a network of contacts.
Heather's experiences as a first-generation college student have taught her that hard work and determination can lead to success. She's proud of the MHA program's CAHME accreditation and strong community ties, which continue to attract talented students and faculty to MSUM. With her dedication and passion for teaching, Heather is helping to shape the future of healthcare education and prepare the next generation of leaders in the field.
Ed.D. in Educational Leadership with a Healthcare emphasis
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