SDSU Imperial Valley Nursing Graduate Earns Her Master’s Degree at 23

Aima Ruvalcaba will earn her master’s degree in nursing leadership in healthcare systems, turning her into a double alumna.

Tuesday, April 30, 2024
Aima Ruvalcaba takes a photo at the campus of SDSU Imperial Valley
Aima Ruvalcaba received invaluable mentorship from the nursing faculty, which led her to apply to the master’s program right after earning her undergraduate degree.(SDSU Imperial Valley)

Aima Ruvalcaba, an SDSU Imperial Valley nursing graduate student, experienced asthma problems growing up in El Centro. After various doctor appointments and hospital visits, her nurses always received her with patience, care and compassion. 

Now at 23, Ruvalcaba is making that same impact in her community as she is graduating SDSU Imperial Valley’s School of Nursing this spring with a master’s degree in nursing leadership in health care systems. 

“All of my doctors and nurses were so kind to me, and I saw how much care they gave to each patient,” said Ruvalcaba. “Even though I was a young kid in the third grade, I knew what I wanted to do once I grew up. I have not regretted it ever since.” 

Ruvalcaba began her journey at SDSU Imperial Valley in 2020 as an undergraduate student in the Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. She participated in the cross-enrollment program with Imperial Valley College, which cut off a year by taking classes in the summertime. 

“I was only able to come to campus for a short period of time as the COVID-19 pandemic has just begun. The start of online classes felt like a 360-degree turnaround,” said Ruvalcaba. “Throughout the weeks, I was able to adjust with the help of my professors who were understanding of the situation and other work and life priorities we had as students.”

The “grow your own” motto within SDSU Imperial Valley’s School of Nursing has been at the forefront in the academic journey of many students like Ruvalcaba, whose motive was to finish her degree locally and work in Imperial Valley to serve her community. It also figured into a recent five-year, $500,000 gift for the nursing program from Carolyn and Cliff Colwell of San Diego, aimed in part at addressing the region’s nursing shortage.

“I became close with my classmates during the master’s program,” said Rucalvada. “There are only seven of us. Many of us will become colleagues in the near future.”

For Ruvalcaba, whose majority of her undergraduate years were during the pandemic, she decided to jump into the master’s program right after earning her bachelor’s degree. As many of her professors became her mentors, their guidance and advice in balancing work and school priorities were fundamental in continuing the program.

“The master’s program opened my eyes on how to develop a staff member role into a more leadership position,” said Ruvalcaba. “Now I understand in depth the hard position and responsibility nurses are put in a leadership role. You’re not only giving your patient medications, you are there with them when their families are not able to be there. It has taken a lot of time, effort and commitment to completing the program, but it has been very rewarding.”

Since the start of her time at SDSU Imperial Valley, Ruvalcaba has participated in various internships with local hospitals. She began working as a registered nurse at the emergency department in El Centro Regional Medical Center only two months after finishing her bachelor’s degree. 

Since her time at El Centro Regional Medical Center, Ruvalcaba is confident that the skills she’s earned in the hospital, tied with her academic knowledge, will launch her career to bigger aspirations. 

“It was easy to feel discouraged at the beginning, but the staff and faculty would cheer us on so much,” said Ruvalcaba. “The mentorship I received from my professors has been invaluable. They showed me it’s not a one-person show, it’s an entire community helping each other.”

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