President and Dean of Columbia College of Nursing Says Arrowhead Helped her Succeed


Arrowhead graduate Heather Vartanian and her two children, four-year-old CJ (right) and Ada (left), who is 2.

Bella Schuelke, Reporter

Heather Vartanian (then Seubert) graduated from Arrowhead High School in 2001. She is now the President and Dean at the Columbia College of Nursing. She says, “I completed my PhD in nursing in 2014 and transitioned to working as the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs. I am currently serving as the President and Dean of Columbia College of Nursing, and love being able to work with the other faculty and staff to prepare the next generation of exemplary nurses.” Vartanian is also a mom to two kids.

Vartanian grew up in Merton, Wisconsin, and attended St. Charles Catholic School in Hartland for elementary and middle school. When she came to Arrowhead from middle school, she says her transition was difficult.

She says, “I went from a class size of 28 at St. Charles to a freshman class size of approximately 450 students at Arrowhead. I was shy when I was growing up, so it took me a bit to make new friends and feel as though I fit in at school. However, I played on the basketball team, so it was helpful to have this built in support system during my high school years.”

She knows transition can be hard for anyone. Vartanian says, “I think that no matter what time it is in history, there is always going to be challenges with transitioning to high school. The challenges may look different, but they will always be there.”

Vartanian says she received good grades in high school, and she believes this is one of the reasons for her success now.

She says, “I currently work with college students, and I hear a common theme for those students who are struggling with being successful of not knowing how to study or how they learn best. I recommend everyone at least begins to learn this about himself or herself during high school. College is high stakes because you can be dismissed after spending a lot of time and money. Therefore, in high school, practice the art and science of what it means to really study, read, write, complete math problems, or whatever it means for that class subject…I am a firm believer that hard work in school is extremely important, but it is good to have fun too so you do not burn yourself out.”

Vartanian says she took studying seriously in high school and still values its importance in her life now, especially considering she works with college students and sees the importance of learning good study habits early on. She recommends students “turn off distractions such as the T.V. and other noises, let friends and family know you need uninterrupted time, and put your cell phone on silent or even better, in the other room…Balance is key. No one can tell you the formula and secret ingredient for balance. It is important to have good self-awareness to be able to honestly reflect on if you are doing what you need to meet your goals and enjoy the journey along the way.”

After Arrowhead, Vartanian studied nursing at Marquette University and graduated in 2005 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. After graduation she, “worked as a staff nurse on various units including a cardiac step down, the Intensive Care Unit, and the Emergency Department. I went back to school to get my Master of Science in Nursing and graduated in 2008, and then worked as a nurse practitioner in a cardiac program for woman. I started teaching nursing students at Columbia College of Nursing in 2010 and feel in love with this role.”

Vartanian recognizes that with success comes hard work. She offers some advice: “Don’t let it frazzle you. Get back up. Keep trying. Keep the perspective on what is important. We live in a first world country and most people have access to clean running water (billions of people in the world can’t say this). From my years as a nurse, I always tell myself when something unexpected or challenging happens, ‘In this situation, no one is coding (their heart stops) or has a new onset cancer diagnosis, I can figure this out.’ Deep breath. Figure out a solution and try again.”

Vartanian believes that Arrowhead helped prepare her for her future. She says, “I appreciated all of the courses that I took as they all helped me in future experiences, including but not limited to math, science, English, Spanish, and history courses.”

Vartanian appreciated the English curriculum taught at Arrowhead, saying, “Although I didn’t realize it at the time, some of my most important courses were my English and writing courses. I had wonderful English 10 teacher whose teachings I carried with me into my college level writing courses. She stressed the importance of having a structure and format for papers…This was refined when I took English 12 the first half of my senior year, and transition[ed] to AP English for the second half of the year. I came to appreciate the art that writing is, and how it took time, discipline, and creativity. Having a strong writing background has helped me excel in my current [career].”

But Vartanian does not consider high school the best years of her life. She says, “I think all stages I experienced thus far are important years, and I have enjoyed all of them…I

enjoyed my college years and have many fond memories, but I also love my current stage in

life. I have a four-year-old son and a two-year-old daughter and I am having so much fun as

they are growing up.”

Considering Vartanian was a more timid high school student, she recognizes other students also feel this way. She suggests students, “stay true to who they are and not feel pressure to change. Although it will take a bit of time, they will find friends that accept them for the person they are. They should be picky about friends they have since friends should support their development into the person they want to become and set them up for success in college and life, not just do want is fun right now.”