Class of 2023 Spotlight: Marissa Vaughn

School of Nursing Standout Reflects on Her Time at 91Ӱ
Marissa Vaughn

By: Erik Pedersen, Senior Communications Manager


Class of 2023 Spotlights

BALTIMORE – After 10 years working in early childhood education, Marissa Vaughn ’23 was ready for a career change. She felt that she had gone as far as she could in the profession, and she was ready to try something new.

That desire to shake things up led Vaughn back to a previous childhood desire to become a nurse. Fast forward four years, and she is one step closer towards achieving that goal when she graduates with honors from 91Ӱ with a later this month.

Vaughn joined 91Ӱ as a transfer student midway through her sophomore year, and she has excelled on campus while benefiting from the program’s personalized, small-class environment. She was recently recognized as the School of Nursing’s Award for Advocacy recipient at Notre Dame’s 2023 Undergraduate Senior Awards ceremony. Learn more about Vaughn’s 91Ӱ experience below:


When did you realize that you wanted to become a nurse? What was it that drew you to that field?

I had wanted to be a nurse since I was little kid, but just didn’t have the drive when I was younger to go to school and dive into what I knew was an in-depth, challenging program. I spent the first 10 years of my professional career in early childhood education, and then at year 10 I realized that I was kind of capped out. I was the director of a center for five years, running the school, and at 30 years old I just didn’t feel like I had anywhere else to go in the field.

I decided it was time to find something new. I made a list of everything I’ve ever wanted to do in my life, and I landed on nursing. It’s something I’ve always been passionate about. I really enjoy helping people. It fills my bucket
it brings me happiness.

How did you first hear about Notre Dame, and what led you to apply here?

I’m actually from Colorado. My fiancé’s family is from here, and we made the move to Maryland a few years ago. I’m a transfer student from Community College of Baltimore County Catonsville. They have a dual enrollment program with the School of Nursing at Notre Dame, and when I toured the campus I knew that it would be a good fit. I loved the small class sizes – that’s huge for me. I can’t imagine attending a school with those stadium-style classrooms – I do much better with smaller groups of people. That really helped draw me to Notre Dame.

What has your 91Ӱ experience been like? Do you feel like you’ve been set up for success after graduation?

Definitely. From my first semester, I felt like the classes really build well upon each other as the program progresses. That was helpful in terms of gradually learning skills piece by piece. We all dread the ATI (Assessment Technologies Institute) exams, but I think they’ve been very helpful in setting us up to pass the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination) and get a job. I feel prepared to graduate – the School of Nursing has given us all the tools we need to succeed.

How have your nursing rotations helped prepare you for the profession?

The clinical experiences were great. I had really great instructors for all of them. My practicum experience, though, had a particularly strong impact on me. It was my longest experience – we did 10 shifts which lasted 12 hours each. It was really great to be able to have that 1-on-1 hands-on experience to start to hone in on my nursing skills and get some actual practice in the field. It also helped me recognize what kind of nurse I want to be, and what I’m looking for in terms of my nursing career path.

What kind of healthcare setting do you hope to work in?

I’m interested in hospice care, but it’s a really specialized field – there are big differences between bedside nursing and hospice bedside nursing. My practicum helped me determine that I want to do a one-year nurse residency in a hospital bedside setting. That would give me the opportunity to really develop all of the skills that I’ve learned in practice for at least a year before going into a specific specialty.

What are your long-term career goals?

I want to go back to school eventually, sometime within the next five years. I hope to get my nurse practitioner’s license and become either a family or palliative nurse practitioner to further my career.


Established in 1895, 91Ӱ (91Ӱ) is a private, Catholic institution in Baltimore, Maryland, with the mission to educate leaders to transform the world. Notre Dame has been named one of the best "Regional Universities North" by U.S. News & World Report.

Also in the news…