Nursing Alumna Nurtures Process Improvements

Woman concentrating while working at a computer workstation

While working as a transplant nurse coordinator at University of California, Irvine (UCI), Samantha Sulkoske, then a Ball State master’s in nursing student, observed the wait time for patients scheduled for organ transplants.  

As part of a personal initiative supported by team leadership and physicians, she created a triaging tool to evaluate each patient referral and schedule their evaluation, which allowed for timely transplants and decreased waiting times.

“It streamlined the scheduling process and supported expedited workups for listing and a shorter turnaround time for transplantation,” says Samantha, now clinical expediter for the Swedish Transfer and Operations Center (STOC), which is part of the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle.  

Her Triaging Tool Wins IONL Scholarship 

The tool at the center of the project, “A Triage-Based Approach for Managing Transplant Referrals,” won Samantha the 2021 Indiana Organization for Nursing Leadership (IONL) scholarship.  

She presented her project at the annual Kidney/Pancreas Transplant and Nephrology Symposium, attended by health care professionals around the country. 

“My colleagues at UCI Health have informed me that my process is still used today,” she says. 

Siktberg Nomination Was Huge Accomplishment: Samantha 

Dr. Linda Siktberg, director of Ball State’s School of Nursing, nominated Samantha for the (IONL) scholarship. 

“This passion for process improvement is what eventually led Samantha to choose an administrative/leadership career path,” wrote Dr. Siktberg in her letter of recommendation. 

According to Samantha, “The honor of being nominated for the scholarship by my professors and Dr. Siktberg was a huge accomplishment in and of itself.” 

Discovers Passion for Process Improvement 

While considering a master’s in nursing, Samantha looked at several schools. “Ultimately, I chose Ball State because of my experience there as an undergraduate student and their flexibility in course work through online options,” she says. 

At first, Samantha was going to pursue the family nurse practitioner concentration. But after working on the transplant referral project, she realized her passion for process improvement.  

“I’ve discovered I really have a knack for process improvement,” she says. “I originally started my studies with a family nurse practitioner concentration, but after working on this project I realized my passion for process improvement and leadership. I decided to switch concentrations to nursing administration, and I have continued to advocate for process improvement in my professional career.”  

Testing Instrument Reduces Lab Times 

While working as an oncology nurse navigator for Ascension St. Vincent in Indianapolis, Samantha implemented the use of a POC (point of care) testing instrument to reduce lab turnaround times—and patient wait times—for chemotherapy infusions. This quality improvement project was then selected to be used to maintain CoC (Commission on Cancer) accreditation for the cancer program at Ascension. 

At the Swedish Transfer and Operations Center, Samantha oversees the input, output, and flow of overall patient volume as they proceed from admission to discharge. 

Will Pursue Ball State MBA from Seattle  

From Seattle, Samantha will soon begin her Ball State online MBA. “A degree in business will open myself up to the opportunity for entrepreneurial pursuits,” she says. 

She’s impressed by the fact that the MBA consistently ranks in the top 20 online business schools in the United States. She says the online MBA, added to her BSN and her online MSN, will give her a “three-peat” for degrees earned at Ball State. 

Ball State MBA Delivers for Business Executive – and She Tells Why

When Carolyn Van Sickle ventured into Ball State’s online master of business administration program, she hadn’t sat through a college course in more than 15 years. During that interim, she had become a business executive working in software delivery and sales management and today is a strategic accounts director for GE Digital.

Confident of professors and online support staff who were readily accessible via email, Van Sickle made the transition from boardroom to classroom with hardly a hitch. She especially liked the “synchronous” classes, which webcast lectures conducted on campus and allows online students to participate in the discussions. Most Ball State MBA courses are synchronous webcasts and can be viewed again at students’ convenience.

“I liked seeing the professor in an actual classroom full of students and getting to hear live the questions from the other students—both those in class and online,” says the California native. Now based in Phoenix, Arizona, Van Sickle pursued the Ball State MBA, with a sales management concentration, fully online and graduated in 2017 summa cum laude. Students also have the option of pursuing the degree on campus or a blend of online and on campus classes.

MBA Lifts Her to the Next Level

Leading large Internet of Things (loT) transformation programs for customers globally with a premier software company of the Industrial Internet, she manages a team of delivery and development contributors that includes data scientists, architects, engineers, project managers, and customer success managers.

Even with her credentials, the Ball State MBA alum took her sales career “to the next level,” in Van Sickle’s words.

“I was able to secure a position as a sales executive while in the program,” she says. “Prior to joining the program, sales managers were hesitant to hire me because I didn’t have any direct sales experience.”

Classes Had Diversity of Real World

With sales management classes, she could immediately apply what she was learning in class to the daily activities in her sales role. Management classes were insightful, she says, because “they taught me to better understand the work environment as a whole, especially what motivates managers and customers.”

Van Sickle also saw the value of a diverse student enrollment profile—in terms of age, work experience, and academic background.

“It was more like the real-world work environment than most business programs,” she says. “I have many friends who went to other top business schools, but they were in class with only people like themselves—late 20’s with minimal work experience. I also have friends who went the Executive MBA route—again, all students with the same level of experience and all around the same age. They didn’t learn to work with other generations.”

Collaboration Made for Great Discussions

She says that collaborating with online classmates was easier than she thought. For a final capstone project, her capstone team analyzed and recommended short-, mid-, and long-term strategies for consumer electronics retailer, Best Buy.

“The combination of company history, along with the turbulent retail industry, made for great discussions.”

Although her résumé includes Fortune 500 companies and nearly 20 years of experience managing and implementing digital solutions and services, Van Sickle believes her MBA provides yet another level of career security.

“With corporate America always in a state of change, my MBA gives me options that weren’t open before. In addition to going back into territory sales, I’m qualified for more roles and could even launch and run my own company.”

M.D. Pursues His MBA to Transition to the Business Side of Health Care

Jonathan Kirkwood knows a thing or two about managing a busy schedule. Between practicing medicine full-time as a hospitalist, starting up and running a boutique biotechnology investment fund, and raising three children with his wife, an OBGYN, he has no time to waste. Which is why pursuing his MBA online with Ball State University was not only ideal but necessary.

“I needed an avenue that offered flexibility on when I could watch lectures. Ball State’s MBA program offers me that flexibility as there are times I am watching them after midnight when I get home from the hospital.”

Kirkwood of Illinois first entertained the idea of pursuing his MBA after switching tracks in his medical career, from a private practice model to an employed physician model. He soon realized it was not the right arrangement for him. He reflected on his competitive advantages and knowledge base – concluding that he had the skills, experience, and specializations needed to work in biotechnology; however, he’d need to advance his education in business.

To do this, he enrolled in Ball State’s online MBA program, choosing to concentrate in finance and health economics and policy. While he is currently taking courses, Kirkwood has already found value in what he has learned.

“The education has further solidified the foundation of business principles I had garnered through experience in building and managing hospitalist programs. I now have a greater understanding of ‘why’ we came to the decisions we did in the past. The rounded education has also been a good catalyst in my current venture in understanding emerging biotechnology equities.”

On top of the valuable information he has already gained, Kirkwood credits his advisor, director of MBA and certificate programs Jason Webber and the faculty with helping him to succeed and manage courses around his busy schedule.

“He [Webber] has really optimized my schedule for my pursuit of knowledge in the time constraints of my current life. There have been several times where I needed to take courses in a different order. Also, several professors have been quite engaging in discussing my vision and my approach to investing.”

Although he isn’t due to graduate with his MBA until 2019, Kirkwood has already taken a big career step forward with what he has learned so far in the program by launching Indiana’s first boutique biotechnology investment fund – Kirkwood Scherer Capital Ventures – earlier this year.

Kirkwood credits his time in the MBA with accelerating this process and providing him with the knowledge base and flexibility he needs to run a successful business, practice medicine, and raise a family – all on his time.


The Master of Business Administration at Ball State – offered either online, on-campus, or as a blend of both – delivers all the practical and rigorous experiences necessary to excel in today’s global and digital economy. It is ranked No.16 Best Online MBA program in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.

MBA Proves You’re Driven, Motivated, Goal Oriented

Master’s of business administration (MBA) alum Matt Califar helps manage multiple power plants and oversees cash compliance, investor relations, treasury issues, and funding decisions.

“With all the rankings and recognition the program is now getting, it proves that Ball State’s MBA was a good choice for me.”


Matt Califar was a senior financial analyst in Indianapolis and only a couple years into his career when he began his search for an MBA. Because he sought a program that was exceptional and affordable, Califar chose the Ball State MBA instead of others offered locally.

His only question was whether he could pursue graduate work with a full-time job in corporate finance.

“I started out just by taking one class, and I quickly found out that I could manage what was expected of me,” says Califar, a graduate of the Ball State MBA program, which he took as a blend of online and on-site courses. “As long as you’re on top of what is required of you, it’s very manageable.”


Today Califar is senior analyst for project finance with AES Corporation, a global power company with a U.S. Strategic Business Unit in downtown Indianapolis. Having absorbed several responsibilities since joining AES, today he helps manage multiple power plants and oversees cash compliance, investor relations, treasury issues, and funding decisions, among other areas.

Califar says his employer looks for MBAs when it’s time to hire. “I think that going back and pursuing your MBA proves to people that you’re driven, you’re motivated, you’re goal-oriented,” he says.


The Ball State MBA, which is offered online, on campus, or as a blend of both, has ranked in the top 20 of the U.S. News & World Report listing of top online business and MBA programs for the last two years.

“With all the rankings and recognition the program is getting, it proves that Ball State’s MBA was a good choice for me,” he says. “If I didn’t have it, I might find myself struggling to be considered for upper-level senior positions.”

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