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Candi LeDuc calls it a stroke of luck. But at SIUE, it's mission in action.

As an underclassman in the School of Nursing, Candi was unsure what career path she would take until she was paired with her faculty mentor: School of Nursing Dean Marcia C. Maurer.

Maurer had extensive experience consulting and educating nurses for careers in neonatal intensive care units (NICU) where ill and premature newborns receive life-saving medical treatment. It was a career path that became more appealing for Candi as the bond with her mentor grew stronger.

"The mentoring program allowed us to get together once a month. I could go to her and talk about stresses of school and what I needed to do to be a better nurse," Candi said. "Although she didn't plan it, Dean Maurer really inspired my career."

As their relationship continued into her senior year, Dean Maurer helped Candi connect with open jobs in NICUs around the St. Louis area and wrote her a letter of recommendation. Eventually Candi secured her current position with the NICU at Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center in St. Louis.

Candi received valuable preparation for her position through the SIUE School of Nursing's Simulated Learning Center for Health Sciences. By working on seven lifelike mannequins and other high-tech equipment, Candi was able to treat "patients" in virtually every scenario she could eventually face on the job, from someone having a heart attack to a woman giving birth.

Contributions to resources like the planned Advanced Education Simulated Learning Center - a high-tech learning environment for graduate students - helps the School of Nursing train highly skilled caregivers and solve the region's shortage of nurses.

So inspired by the education she received, Candi has returned to SIUE's School of Nursing in two ways: as a member of its advisory board and a graduate student pursuing her nurse practitioner degree.

"I'm proud to be a graduate of SIUE. I'm making a difference in people's lives because of the education I received here," Candi said. "The instructors are all nurses and are so driven to help patients. They inspired me to become the best nurse that I can be."