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Washington State University

Honors Student Profiles:
Sara Van Natta

Sara Van Natta is in her fourth year at Washington State University, and will be graduating in May 2017 with her Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing through the Honors College Nursing Direct Admit Program. Through this partnership with the College of Nursing, Sara had a clear pathway with early admission to nursing school and a simple outline of courses to take that satisfied nursing school prerequisites and the Honors College curriculum.Growing up in a military family, Sara moved often. So, when it came time to look at colleges, she wanted the feel of a close-knit family in the school and in the town. Sara was also looking for a strong nursing program, since she has wanted to be a nurse since she was in 7th grade. When Sara looked into WSU, the school spirit, together with the way WSU met her other priorities, combined to bring WSU to the top of her list.

Then Sara heard about the Honors College and the Nursing Direct Admit Program. She saw great value in both, and she joined. Sara loves that the classes are intimate and small, usually with 15-25 students per class. She also likes that classes are less lecture-based and more focused on student engagement through presentations and discussions. Sara also enjoyed that the class topics were specific to the different interests. So, rather than covering a really broad topic, Sara could really learn about and get into the class topics.

Sara specifically highlights three Honors College courses that she found really intriguing. One looked at substance abuse and how it involves different elements of psychology. Another looked at the relationship between music and the brain. The third, an upper-level course that incorporates global case studies, investigated drug abuse within a global context and how its societal impact has changed over time. Sara enjoyed delving into these different perspectives of the brain and psychology, and she values being able to explore these and other topics in her Honors College classes.

After two years in Pullman taking nursing school prerequisites and Honors College classes, Sara moved to Spokane for two years of nursing school. There, Sara says, she “jumped in right away.” She vied for a position in the Student Nurse Leaders (SNL) program and was elected as her class’s treasurer/secretary, which is a position she has kept for all four semesters of nursing school. For this, Sara acts a liaison between her class and SNL, plans fundraisers, and coordinates fun events such as movie nights and decorating doors to their professors’ offices. Sara has enjoyed making many connections through this program.

At the end of her first semester in nursing school, Sara applied to be an ambassador for the school. Sara enjoys that this position helps her meet people outside of her class cohort. As an ambassador, Sara helps with events such as retirement parties, donor events, visits to high schools, and Sleepover for Science, which is an event for elementary schoolers to build excitement for healthcare professions. Ambassadors also serve as mentors for new nursing students, meeting them at orientation and staying in touch throughout the year.

Sara also joined Sigma Theta Tau, an international honor society for nursing. Through this, Sara has enjoyed learning about research projects that other students are doing, and she says her roommate, who also went through the Honors College Nursing Direct Admit Program, presented her Honors thesis research at the Sigma Theta Tau induction.

Sara is “really excited” about her thesis research. For her project, Sara is investigating policies regarding how health care professionals, such as physicians and nurses, are trained regarding suicide prevention, and how each state’s policies compare with national recommendations.

After graduation, Sara wants to work in pediatric oncology so she will likely do a nursing residency program in this unit. Sara is also considering pursuing further education to expand her thesis research by exploring how suicide rates influence policy changes over time. No matter what Sara chooses to do next, she is thankful for being an Honors Coug!

If you’d like to contact Sara, send an email to and indicate you’d like to connect with her.