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August 2021

Nursing alumnus returns 'home' as faculty mentor

When it comes to the nursing profession, Dr. Lee Ann Lung likens herself to a shark.

“I’m constantly moving, going at a slower pace and methodical about my next steps,” she says of the analogy. “I want (my students) to be the same, never resting on their laurels and getting comfortable but pushing themselves to continue learning and be a better provider.”

Lung has done just that, following up her 2011 Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree through Wayland with both master’s and doctorate degrees. And now, after years of practical experience and advanced education, Lung has returned to the place it all started as a full-time faculty member and associate dean of the School of Nursing.

“It really feels like a return to home. Some of the faculty that I have the pleasure of working with taught me back in the day. To be in the trenches with them and trying to figure out ways to

Lung with her students
Dr. Lung (center) with her student charges.

reach the students better or find some educational material that is more understandable is a very pleasant challenge,” says Lung. “As an instructor, there is nothing more wonderful than seeing students make those connections or see them bond with a patient during their clinicals. It is really great to see my students do well in the classroom but even better at the bedside.”

Leading future nurses

In her current role, Lung is calling upon all those years of experience and education to provide additional leadership to the School of Nursing, which launched in 2008 and is housed in New Braunfels. Since earning her own WBU degree, she has returned frequently as an adjunct instructor to teach in the skills lab and then as faculty for students on clinical visits.

So it just made sense to fill the faculty opening and take a leadership role that she hopes will give her the opportunity to make positive changes in the nursing program that is home. Her two areas of focus will be meeting the two greatest challenges for nursing schools nationwide and for Wayland specifically: recruiting students and faculty.

“I really want our school to be a program that our students are proud of and proud to be alumni of. Recruitment is a big challenge with so many nursing schools in the area, but I think the best advertisement is our own graduates. Word of mouth is incredible. I want Wayland students to say ‘I got a quality education that prepared me for the role I was going to serve,’” she says.

Finding faculty is a continual challenge in academia, says Lung, and she plans to emphasize leadership and continuing education with those undergraduate alumni who may become great faculty for Wayland in the future. Recruiting quality faculty, she says, will require “a balance of providing adequate pay, providing them opportunities to really make changes for the improvement of the program and not losing the passion for the education.” Staying updated on trends and changes in nursing will be crucial as they serve to pass those things along to their students.

Beyond practical skills

Lung says while educating students on the practical skills of nursing like drawing blood, taking vitals and administering medications are of utmost importance. But there has to also be an ongoing focus on patient care and those communication skills that separate good nurses from the best nurses.

“Nursing students are often gung-ho about poking holes in patients and getting things out of them, like blood products and other bodily fluids, but they need that comfort factor of caring for the patient and listening and relating to them in some way,” she says. “(During the pandemic) we focused on our students being compassionate and figuring out what’s the right rapport per patient, because they need to provide that individualized care. It’s just as important to train our students to be a true nurse to their calling to help people and also get the job done by giving the right medication, pushing them to ambulate so they can get stronger faster and also educating them and their family. So you have to have that rapport or it blocks the communication.”

Turning a corner

Those bedside encounters with patients is what first drew Lee Ann to the profession of nursing, though she was working at the time in the very different field of advertising. Armed with a degree from NYU in film and television production and experience in Los Angeles, Calif., on TV and movie sets, Lung was drawn back to San Antonio and began using her talents for an advertising firm. She supervised regional and national commercials for such brands as Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, filling every role from script writing to hiring talent and production crews to directing.

Lung on campus
Dr. Lee Ann Lung

It was on a shoot for a local hospital where something clicked inside the self-proclaimed “military brat” and she realized she wanted a change. The child of an Air Force physician, she was no stranger to the medical field, and she said the nursing world seemed a great place “to do something with more purpose.”

She did her research on Wayland – which she passed every day on her way to work – and found a military-friendly, Baptist university with an affordable nursing program. She began the work on her basic requirements, then entered the nursing program and graduated with one of the first few classes to graduate with the BSN/RN.

After a few years in the field, Lung continued her education at Frontier Nursing University in Kentucky, earning a master’s degree and then a doctorate in Nursing Practice. She is proud to be in a position now to move the School of Nursing at her alma mater forward.

Shaping the future

The program involves a cohort approach, with 18-25 students in each: one in fall, one in spring. Those students go through every course together for that two years, building camaraderie as they learn the valuable skills to be great nurses.

“Every term there is a different focus with a cohort. The first semester is a focus on the basic skills, then we bridge them to a nursing home and rehab facility so they begin to apply those skills. The next semester we go to another hospital system and may be on a medical/surgical unit, and as they progress, they focus on more critical care,” she says. “Thrown in there is maternal health and pediatrics, and that’s when you really learn what students are interested in or not.”

Those years are followed by a special pinning ceremony unique to the nursing profession and a very meaningful and special experience with family and close friends. The graduates then are also part of the traditional commencement ceremony at the San Antonio campus when it hits closest to their completion. After they pass the NCLEX licensure exam, they are full-fledged RNs ready to tackle the nursing world.

And that, Lee Ann says, is what means so much to her in this new role.

“I really love teaching the baby nursing students and laying down the foundation and expectation and being nurturing and exciting for the experiences they are having. But I have found it very satisfying to teach the last class for the cohort before graduating because I can see what they have learned in the program and what the needs are and things we can focus on to make them even better candidates,” she says. “Wayland was always very supportive of my growth and it felt natural for me to return and be part of its growth.”


Alumnus keeps busy as nonprofit director, mayor and more

Aaron Groff’s LinkedIn profile is packed. Besides his full-time job as executive director of Abigail’s Place, a nonprofit that finds housing for single moms and their families, he juggles a role at a local church and is mayor of Fulshear, Texas. And he’s starting a new business in a few months.

But all that seems natural for Aaron, who has a variety of gifts and skills that he says were honed during his time at Wayland.

“I’m much more productive when I’m busy, and I enjoy having my hands in a couple of different things,” he laughs. “Even the opportunities to spread the gospel and share faith in these unique settings I have, whether as the mayor or launching the title company are enjoyable.”

Aaron (third from right) at groundbreaking

Those different things mean a schedule that finds his circles intersecting often as he moves about the uber-growing community in the Houston suburbs. But his roots are in church work, and he still has a role on staff at the Fellowship of Cinco Ranch in Katy, where he joined as campus development pastor four years ago. He never would have expected the rest of these ventures to come about, but he’s excited for the opportunities.

The journey begins

Aaron’s ministry preparation was heavily built while at Wayland, where he landed in 1994.

“Even my journey to Wayland was unexpected and interesting,” he says with a laugh. “I went there to take a friend to school and help him move in to start Koinonia. While I was there, I ran into Clinton Lowin, whom I had known for a while, and the next thing I knew I was sitting in the office of Dr. Claude Lusk filling out applications. I went home to tell my mom I was going to Wayland.”

Aaron’s plan to attend community college in his hometown of Amarillo was gone, but the memories of those four years with friends, activities on campus and mentorships from professors still ring sweet after all these years. He finished coursework in August 1998.

“Part way through my senior year, I got engaged and then got a letter from the President’s Office. I didn’t have quite enough hours to graduate, but he said there is a church looking for a youth minister and wanted me to meet with them,” he recalls, noting the interview took place at the Tulia truck stop and he was offered the job immediately at First Baptist Church of Cleveland. “I began trying to graduate really quickly.”

Aaron spent 15 years in student ministry, then became a family pastor. When his family moved to Fulshear in 2012, they were planting a church in the growing community. In 2014, the church merged with another and he co-pastored for a season there before taking another role and eventually ending up at The Fellowship.

Along the way, he started a consulting business to help churches and nonprofits with team-building, strategic planning and similar activities. That has continued but the amount of work varies as his other responsibilities change.

Aaron’s next venture would come soon but not materialize until a few years later.

Electing to lead

In 2014, Aaron was approached by a group of residents about running for the city council, but with a new church role he declined. They came back again in 2018 and he agreed to do so

State of City Address
Giving a city address

after some prayer. Then a few council members encouraged him to go one step further: run for mayor instead. He took the plunge, was elected in 2018 and is now in his second term.

“We’re the fastest growing city in Texas with 800 percent growth since 2010,” notes Aaron. “In 2008, there were 748 residents; in 2012 there were 1,150 when we moved here. In October, we will probably hit 20,000 in-city residents and another 42,000 in our extraterritorial jurisdiction. We will be the biggest city in Fort Bend County between 2035-2040.”

Aaron says the growth is due to a combination of things, including two great school districts – Katy and Lamar Consolidated. Sitting just west of the energy corridor, the town is home to lots of engineers and professionals and boasts the second highest median income of any city in the state. It also has lot of green spaces and natural beauty as well as a low tax rate.

“We are a home rule charter city, so I don’t have a whole lot of responsibilities with day-to-day operations. I’m more of the face of the city, and I go to a lot of meetings and events, whether it’s with the chamber, economic development commissions or other cities,” said Aaron. “I get the opportunity to lead our council meetings, and because we’re growing, those can sometimes be a couple a month. I don’t have a vote on council but they give me a lot of influence. I spend a lot of time meeting with developers, with residents and working on economic development to expand that tax base.”

Housing helper

Aaron’s role with Abigail’s Place first started as a consulting gig in 2018, meeting with the group’s director, then their board, for some strategic planning. That next year, the director moved away and the board terminated Aaron’s contract so they could formally offer him the position as executive director. In this role, he oversees all the functions of

Delivering joy
Christmas for clients of Abigail's Place

the nonprofit that works to prevent homelessness for single moms and their children in the area.

“We provide transitional housing for 3-4 months, help them get to a place of self-sustainability, connect them to multiple resources, so they can thrive on their own and be successful. Sometimes it’s helping them increase their earning potential or providing additional resources such as child care, so they can be sustainable,” explains Aaron, noting that while only three

families can be in the current housing at one time, the agency also helps with vouchers and other assistance to bridge the gaps for others. Around 117 families were helped in 2020, accounting for more than 500 individuals.

Abigail’s Place typically purchases older homes in the area and renovates them as needed to help families. But he is excited about a new venture coming in the near future: a new build in partnership with the Greater Houston Homebuilders Association’s charitable arm, HomeAid, and Attack Poverty will provide four new 1,000-square-foot units for families in two duplexes. They expect to break ground this fall with the $200,000 needed almost raised.

One more project

As if Aaron’s plate wasn’t full enough, he’s adding a new business to the lineup in September as he and two friends launch a title company called InFocus Title LLC. That came about through a podcast that got them noticed by a Metroplex title company to start a branch. In the end, the group decided to be independent but have the resources of the other company to help them get off the ground.

“There are a lot of title agencies out there, but we are in a booming region of the state where new homes are being bought and sold daily, commercial properties are popping up everywhere and the number of refinances are high, and we thought we might be able to fill a customer service void,” says Aaron.

Groff Famly
The Groff Family

Aaron notes that his family has been super supportive of all his adventures. Wife Melanie, whom he met through a college job at First Baptist Church in Stinnett, is a chemical engineer and project manager for Conoco Phillips. The Groffs have two daughters, a sophomore in high school and a freshman at the University of Oklahoma.

While keeping all those plates spinning may be challenging, there is plenty reward that makes it worth the work, Aaron says.

“With Abigail’s Place, the most rewarding piece is definitely when that mom walks into that home for the first time and you see the weight lifted. You see the surprise in the children’s faces, because they are in a three-bedroom home they can call their own at least for a short term. It’s a place of rest and a safe haven. That is second only to the moment they move out and into their own place,” he says. “As the mayor, it’s the opportunity to be with people. My goal is to be accessible and sharing the story of Fulshear, what we are and what we’re becoming.”


Devotional: Compassion needed here

The dictionary gives about 30 synonyms for the word “compassion.” Words like sympathy, tenderness, tolerance, kindness and charity.

Compassion literally means “to suffer together.” Among emotion researchers, it is defined as the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering.

The opposite of “That’s a tough situation. Hope somebody will help them.”

Sure, we can’t support every charity. But that doesn’t absolve us from supporting any to the extent we can – children’s hospitals, destitute animals, food for the hungry, wounded veterans, to name a few.

True compassion is demonstrated in action: We don’t just say to a sick friend, “I’m thinking about you.” We take a meal to their home, fold their laundry, clean the bathroom, listen to them

Compassionate heart
Heart of Compassion

recount their physical woes.

Jesus demonstrated his compassion in healing the sick and feeding the hungry – the multitudes he probably didn’t know on a first-name basis, any more than we might feel compelled to help victims of natural disasters or great calamity even though we’ll likely never meet them. The book of Matthew recounts several instances of Christ feeling the suffering of those who came to hear him preach.

But Jesus also demonstrated compassion on an even more personal level when he raised his friend Lazarus from the dead. John 11:35-36 says Jesus wept when he went to Lazarus’ grave. It made an impression on those who witnessed that deep emotion: “See how he loved him.”

Sometimes we learn details about the lives of our friends, our relatives, our business associates, our students – details that could push anyone’s heart to the breaking point.

That information may be gleaned by really knowing and caring about each person, treating each with dignity and respect, practicing empathetic listening.

As we feel led to help in whatever way we can to alleviate the problems and suffering of those “far away,” a whispered prayer might be: “God, you have been compassionate to me. Help me have that same spirit toward my friends and associates I see almost every day.”

Danny Andrews is a 1972 graduate of Wayland and served as the director of Alumni Relations for ten years, retiring in 2016. He spent many years in newspaper reporting and as editor of the Plainview Daily Herald. Retired now in Burleson, Danny and wife Carolyn, a WBU Ex, have three children who all attended WBU: Brandon, EX, Kayla, EX, and Brad, BA'07. 


From the History Files

This month's history recap continues a series about some of the historic buildings on the main campus in Plainview, where Wayland was founded in 1908.

Two apartments
Coller and Goodpasture Halls on the northwest corner of campus.

While most students on the Plainview campus have called various dormitories home over the decades, for a special group of students, "home" was the married student apartments located on the northwest corner of campus near the Hilliard Field. Three identical complexes were home to 8 apartments each, reserved early in their history for only married students. Allison-Conkwright, Goodpasture and Collier Halls are still in use today, with few changes over the decades. 

The three partially brick buildings were added in 1960 and 1961. In years where married students were quite common -- after wartime, for instance -- the apartments stayed full, as did some

Apartments up close

temporary structures called homettes. But in the last few decades, students marriying in school or coming already married has declined to such degree that the apartments are more commonly used for seniors or honor students these days. Not much has changed in these structures over the years. The university picked up both the Llano Apartments on 7th and Oakland streets and the Marquis Apartments at 8th and Fresno and those also are home to married or older students.