President's Medallion Winner: Grace Nelson


Grace Nelson is a student mentor and leader at the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing.

Grace Nelson’s path to nursing started when she was a newborn. A long stay in neonatal intensive care—and her parents’ stories of how nurses supported their family during that stressful time—inspired Grace to pursue a nursing career to help other families. The Omaha, Neb., native chose Loyola University Chicago over other schools because of the beauty of its Lake Shore campus, the strength of its nursing program, and the many opportunities for clinical experiences in Chicago.

At the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing, Grace has excelled academically and become a student mentor and leader, bringing together students and faculty and helping create a sense of community. She currently serves as executive president of the Nursing Student Council and speaks with prospective students at recruiting events several times a year.

As one of her professors said, “What sets her apart is her dedication to all things Loyola and her embodiment of service. She is generous with her time and energy, the first to say ‘yes’ to any ask.”

Grace said Loyola’s Jesuit-centered education has prepared her to go beyond her clinical training and provide holistic care that considers her patients’ spiritual and physical well-being. After graduation, she hopes to work in the NICU or pediatrics, and may someday pursue a master’s or Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. Until then, she said, “I want to help people and make a difference.”

Why did you want to become a nurse?

What I love about nursing is the deeper connection we make with the patients and families and how involved we get to be in their care.

Ever since deciding to pursue nursing, I was always very drawn to the NICU specialty. I’m a triplet. My siblings and I were all in the NICU; I was there for 10 weeks. My parents talked about how scary it was to have your babies hooked up to so many machines, especially for new parents, but that the NICU nurses were such a big help and relieved stress for them.

I would love to be able to be that nurse for parents.

How has Loyola prepared you to be a better nurse?

Loyola has really prepared me to treat the patient as a person. At every nursing school, you learn the clinical aspects of caring for a patient, but nursing involves so much more than that—you're caring for the whole person, spiritually, and socially.

Loyola has helped me know how to talk to patients and let them know I’m going to be their advocate.

What groups have you been part of on campus?

Nursing Student Council (as executive president in 2023-24, class president since my first year, and executive council liaison in 2022-23), Alpha Sigma Nu (Jesuit Honor Society), the Marcella Niehoff Society of Student Mentors, and Kappa Kappa Gamma women’s fraternity.

How has being part of these groups helped you become a leader?

It’s helped me become more confident in talking to people—my professors, classmates, and talking to prospective students and their parents. I want to make everybody feel like they’re heard and included, and create a welcoming and safe environment where people feel comfortable talking to me. 

You’ve mentored several younger students. What advice do you give them?

They ask for a lot of advice about classes and clinicals. I try to give study tips, emphasize the importance of working together, and give lots of encouragement. I was in their shoes once and tell them that although it can be challenging at times, they will get through it.

Loyola prepares you so well to deal with whatever situation you’re facing and gives you so many tools to succeed. Your professors are there for you and you can approach them with anything, and you’ll build a community within your class.

What has been the best part of your Loyola experience?

Being part of the Loyola Nursing community. I could not be happier that I chose Loyola. I graduated from high school in 2020 during COVID, and our first semester (at Loyola) was online. It was really difficult because we were meeting on a screen and it was hard to get to know people. But I’ve bonded so closely with people in my class since then, and I’ve developed leadership skills with the support of my classmates.

What has scholarship support meant to you and your family?

I have two siblings and we’re all in college at the same time. It’s definitely helped my parents as they’re trying to get all three of us through school.