May 8, 2013
13-160

Jessica Pope
Communications Specialist

Tammie Cooper Named Top VSU College of Nursing Grad

VALDOSTA — Growing up in a small Koochiching County, Minn., town of some 400 citizens, Tammie L. Cooper dreamed of two things — leaving her hometown behind and becoming a nurse. She realized her first dream when she enlisted in the United States Air Force after high school. She waited 29 more years to realize her second.   

Cooper graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing on Saturday, May 4, from Valdosta State University, with the highest of academic honors — summa cum laude. The 47-year-old wife, mother, and grandmother was the top member of her College of Nursing class.

“It was easier to accomplish my first goal by joining the military,” said Cooper, who was one of 29 teens who graduated from Littlefork-Big Falls High School in 1984. “I was hoping for a job in the medical field, but there was not one available at the time, so I told them to just give me something. I wanted to get away too badly to wait.”

As an airman, Cooper worked in supply, providing aircraft parts for military planes for several years, serving in Korea, Italy, England, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Maine, California, and even at Moody Air Force Base from February 1991 to July 1994. She attended school in Texas and Colorado. She completed her 25-year military career as an instructor in Montgomery, Ala., at the Air Force Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy at Maxwell Air Force Base, teaching classes in management, leadership, military history, and communication skills.

Cooper retired from the Air Force on July 1, 2009, as a senior master sergeant and did not hesitate to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse. She entered VSU as a full-time student the following month, taking full advantage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill and completing the program in four years.

“The toughest part about the nursing program … there is so much to learn and in such a short period of time,” she said. “You have so many books and so many drugs and so many different diseases and so many everything, and two years seems like such a long time, but it’s really not. You have so much reading to do, and there is so little time. You spend your life with your head in a book.”

When asked how she came to live in Valdosta, Cooper said that her husband, Arthur M. Cooper III, is from the area. The couple married on July 7, 1990, and went on to have three daughters, Desiree Cooper, 21, Aubree Cooper, 15, and Makalee Cooper, 10. She also has a stepdaughter, Anitra Walker, 37, who has two daughters of her own, Amani Smith, 17, and Amina Smith, 14.

“When I made the decision to pursue my nursing dream,” she said, “my family was very supportive of me. My husband knew that nursing was always what I wanted to do. I honestly would not have been able to make it through the program without my family and their support.”

Cooper noted that she looks forward to going to work in a local hospital because she wants to help people while continuing to learn new skills. She knew that the hospital setting was the right fit for her after participating in a series of hands-on learning, or clinical, experiences with various nursing professionals each semester in the College of Nursing program. Supervised by her professors, she studied in a range of settings, including hospice, school, mental health facility, health department, and hospital.

Cooper said that she is ready to take her classroom knowledge into the workforce; she is ready to make a difference in the lives of her fellow citizens; and she believes that her life experiences, especially living and serving abroad, will only make her a better registered nurse.

Contact Tammie L. Cooper at tlcooper@valdosta.edu to learn more.

On the Web:

www.valdosta.edu/nursing