December 14, 2023

Nneoma Lewis graduatingU.S. active duty and veteran service members who walk the stage at commencement wear a navy-blue stole. Donning the 50 stars, the UIW seal and the phrase, “Valor and Respect,” the graduates who wear it represent the best of our nation. One such graduate of the Fall Class of 2023 is Nneoma Lewis, who graduated last weekend with a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).  

Nneoma Lewis Lewis was originally inspired to join the Navy by her big sister who saw something in her and believed she had what it took to serve. Her sister’s intuition was proven right. Lewis has since served as a Navy Registered Nurse (RN) for 16 years. In this role, she has been deployed three times to locations that include Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq.  

“Each tour was unique and presented its own fair share of challenges,” shared Lewis. “However, I enjoyed being outside of a traditional hospital environment and caring for the critically wounded. You learn a lot about yourself in the process and you form strong bonds and lifelong memories with your unit members.” 

She noted that mental health nursing has always been her passion through her time as a practicing RN. This passion and her experiences are what inspired her to pursue a terminal DNP so that she may become a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP).  

When she crossed the stage Saturday, and found herself one step closer to her goal, she felt like she was in a dream she didn't want to wake up from. 

“I have dreamt about walking across the stage for a very long time and I’m still on cloud nine! It all felt absolutely right, and it was without a doubt the happiest moment of my life.” 

With her doctorate, she hopes to continue to serve the service members in uniform, but this time as someone who can offer helpful and essential mental health support. She strives to play a key role in meeting the medical needs of service members to ensure that they are operationally ready and worldwide deployable in order to serve nationally and overseas. 

Nneoma LewisIn addition to receiving her doctorate, she also earned the esteemed honor of being promoted to a O-5 Navy Commander (CDR) at the Veterans Graduation Reception the day prior. 

Lewis was given the option of being promoted in front of the Alamo or somewhere she deemed to be special to her. In the end, she chose to earn and celebrate her promotion right on UIW’s Broadway campus. She credits the MVC for being immensely supportive and playing a pivotal role in helping her reach her goal. 

Karissa Vigil Ramos, the MVC’s veterans services specialist, helped Lewis during her time at the University and shared that she is incredibly proud of her. To her, Lewis’s decision to be promoted at UIW was one of those special moments that makes every second of her work worthwhile. 

“Nneoma could have chosen the Alamo to do her promotion, but she wanted to be at UIW, a place where she has felt supported in her journey,” shared Ramos. “For the students, we really want to be more than just an office they talk to once a semester. Connecting and building a community of students who know they can rely on us speaks to the purpose of the MVC." 

Lewis was promoted by CDR Stacey O’Neal, whom she views as a transformational leader with admirable qualities she hopes to emulate. She noted CDR O’Neal’s genuine love for the Navy, the sailors and the mission when choosing her to be a part of this momentous occasion.  

You must open doors and windows for others. You must not only maintain your presence in those rooms, but you must thrive, and we here will ensure that happens,” CDR O’ Neal said as she promoted Lewis. 

Surrounded by her family, friends and community, Lewis was dressed in her new combination cover and shoulder boards that reflect her new rank as CDR Nneoma Lewis.  

As she leaves the Nest to embark on her next chapter, Commander Lewis left current and future UIW veteran students with some advice: 

“Stay connected with the Military Veteran Center for various resources, information on scholarships, and tuition assistance and benefits through the Veterans Affairs. Get to know the faculty at UIW. They are amazing and are there to support you when and if need be. Most importantly, stay focused on your studies! Always remember your ‘why’ especially when the circumstances become challenging. Pressure makes diamonds, so do not quit no matter how hard it seems!”