The Key to Success

Key to successTwo weeks before her 19th birthday, Samantha Casper, MSN’18, had a car accident. She was headed out for a night of fun with a friend, but ended up at the hospital. The doctors told her mother that Casper had suffered a traumatic brain injury and that she might not survive. Casper has survived, but she was told that due to short term memory loss, she could never go back to college. But she had other plans. “My mother instilled in me ‘Do more, be more, don't give up,’” says Casper.

Two months after the accident, Casper went back to the community college, where she had started prerequisite classes for a radiology program. But this time she enrolled in classes to prepare her for the nursing program. ”I cleaned houses during the day, and in the evenings I worked as a cashier in a factory. I took one class per semester,” she says. In 2006, she completed an associate degree in nursing.

Casper was eager to advance her education and career. In 2013, fifteen years after the traumatic brain injury, she completed an online program that allows registered nurses to earn a bachelor of science in nursing degree. A year later, she pursued an MBA with health services concentration, but she felt that it shifted her from what she really wants to do—caring for patients and their families.

She did not dream that one day she would be a Duke graduate. “My father dropped out of school after fourth grade and my mother struggled to get a two-year associate degree. Financial resources were scarce in our home, but my mother taught me and my brother that hard work, dedication, and perseverance were the key attributes to success,” she says.

Casper was inspired to apply to Duke University School of Nursing when she saw on Facebook that her friend had been accepted into the master of science in nursing (MSN) program at Duke. “I thought, ‘That’s just two hours from my home. I can do that,’” she says. “I knew that my friend was a mother and worked full time and my life closely resembled hers, so I started searching opportunities at Duke,” she says. Casper was intrigued by the school’s mission, core values, research, and rankings. “I wanted to be a part of it,” she says.

In 2016 Casper was admitted in the school’s adult-gerontology nurse practitioner primary care major in the MSN degree program, while still working full time. She received the Class of 1954 Scholarship and the Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation Scholarship, which helped her ease tuition costs. “Duke has ensured that I had everything I needed to be successful, and I’m so thankful for that,” she says.

Two months before her graduation, Casper’s mother's health failed and she passed away. “My mother would have been proud of me,” she says. “I have two girls and I am setting an example for them to do more, excel in life, and be more.”


By Aliza Inbari

“My mother taught me and my brother that hard work, dedication, and perseverance were the key attributes to success.”

Samantha Casper