Nadine Bravo

When you speak to Nadine Bravo, one phrase that seems to come up often is “on the side.” The graduate student is currently pursuing Master of Education degrees in both Teaching and Learning World Language (German and Spanish) and Teaching English, in addition to an online Native American Studies certificate program from Montana State University.  

She is constantly finding causes to advocate for, is endlessly curious about new things to learn and new ways to grow—all “on the side.” She was recently named the 2022 Graduate Assistant of the Year at the University of Southern Maine. She’s a co-chair of the Graduate Student Board, part of the Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Council (IDEC), and Gloria S. Duclos Convocation committee, based on her research interest in intergenerational trauma and Native American Studies (also all on the side). And she’s a single mother of three. How does she do it?  

“I get up between 4:30 and 5 a.m. every morning,” she said. “I let the dogs out, have coffee, and start working and studying—I hold two graduate assistantships to learn how to do proper research in the literacy field and to have tuition assistance on top of my scholarship. In between, there are meetings to attend. Depending on whether I work from home I am also required to spend at least 6 hours in my internship at Thornton Academy as part of my 2-year Extended Teacher Education Program. That usually happens on a Monday or a Tuesday. In between, I am a mom, chauffeuring my kids from A to B. Occasionally, I try to fit in a yoga session but that is rare. We grow our own food which also requires me to spend a little time in the garden with the kids. I study while dinner is cooking and my day ends around 10 p.m. with finishing up homework or work assignments. Some nights are longer but I don’t do well without sleep, hence I work seven days a week to spread out my work load.” 

One could not fault you for needing to take a breath after that, but Nadine exemplifies the “Great Takes Grit” grind not only of the Great University Campaign video but that of so many students at the University of Southern Maine. She’s also an uncommon comeback story, working to overcome intergenerational trauma (having grown up in East Germany in the 1980s) and severe personal trauma. At the University of Southern Maine, what she calls “the most supportive community I’ve ever been in,” she applied her perseverance, learned how to be honest with herself, and with an incredible support network, has excelled. 

She is quick to credit many people at USM for leading that support, advisor Mike Katz chief among them. Prior to attending USM, she had been working at a grocery store for nine years. She dreamed of going to graduate school but was too afraid to lose her children’s benefits and end up in debt. When she suffered a work injury that prevented her from working for two years, she knew it was her time. She considered her options, as well as the “constant encouragement” from Katz, with whom she’d had annual check-ins since October 2016. 

When she had difficulty transferring her international transcripts from Moscow State University and Martin Luther University in Halle, Germany, she credits PJ Singh and Cookie Treible in the admissions office for working with her, and for their colleague Rachel Morales for writing a pleading letter with the admission committee to help her gain admittance.  

That incredible support didn’t end there. She cites Dr. Alec Lapidus, her advisor for her Teaching English Master’s Program, in particular for championing her. “Thanks to him, my whole world has changed,” she said. “Having grown up with very little self-esteem during my childhood, youth, and also during my adulthood, caused by multiple traumas throughout my life, it was difficult for me to see myself in a positive light and set a good role model for my children due to lack of confidence. Dr. Lapidus provided encouragement and saw something in my contributions to our asynchronous class discussions and writing assignments that have been giving me confidence and encouragement to pursue my desired research fields. In an equally important way, my supervisor Dr. Mindy Butler gave me an opportunity as her graduate assistant despite my lack of knowledge and insecurities. She and Dr. Lapidus are my continuous mentors along my graduate path, having compassion and understanding when days are challenging, personally and academically.”  

Nadine exemplifies the strength that comes from an inner place but is nurtured by a community that recognizes greatness in a person and helps draw it out. Being a part of the Great University Campaign video (on the side!) was a natural opportunity for her to share her gratitude for this support. “I have found a community within USM that sees things in me and continues to believe in me,” she said, “especially when I am occasionally struggling to do that on my own.”  

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