Joannaly Tapang

Jonnaly Tapang

Dean's Scholar

Major: Nursing
College of Applied Sciences and Arts

Why did you choose your major?

It took me a very long time to realize that being a nurse was something that fit my personality. Being a Filipino-American, many people in my family were already nurses. I had an aversion toward becoming a nurse because I didn't want to follow the same path. Later in high school, I discovered that being a nurse was everything that I wanted in a career. Nursing would have me on my feet, give me an opportunity to aid others when they are most vulnerable, and provide me with a career that is versatile. I can't take all the credit for finding the correct major, though. I took a couple of incredibly long personality tests to find possible careers and majors that suited me. I found the most helpful test on myroad.collegeboard.com --- a resource I found in my high school PSAT results.

However, going to college was not my initial plan. After high school, I wanted to enlist in the military. I thought enlisting was a sure way to attain financial independence and tuition assistance for my educational wants and needs. My high school history teacher helped me to discover Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC), and told me that I could complete my college career and train to be a military officer at the same time. For me, AFROTC ended up being the best route to become an Air Force nurse. AFROTC shaped my college experience, and helped me grow from a small, timid girl into the woman that I am now. There are many routes to becoming a nurse in the military, but I liked the one I took the most. AFROTC was something that allowed me to explore whether or not being a part of the military was for me without needing to commit to any contracts for the first two years. It also provided me with a valuable set of skills I could use in a team setting as a leader or a follower.

What does receiving this particular award mean to you?

I am incredibly honored to be receiving this award. To be honest, it was the last thing I expected. It took me a long time to figure out how to be a successful student based on my personality and learning style (kinesthetic and auditory). I have never been good at giving myself credit for the hard work I accomplished, so receiving the award after graduating nursing school was reassurance that I did well, even if college felt like a frustrating struggle many times.

Who has had the greatest influence of impact on your life? In addition, tell us about an SJSU faculty member who contributed to your success.

My chemistry high school teacher Mr. Nafrada stands out the most. Mr. Nafrada was a chemistry high school teacher who taught me that a learning experience was far more important than a grade result. "I don't give a rat's ass if you received a D in my class, as long as you learned SOMETHING" he once yelled in vibrant passion. He made it a point that he would rather a student earn a "D" and learn plenty, rather than earn an "A" and learn little to nothing at all. I learned more about life than I did about Chemistry in that class (although I learned a lot about Chemistry that I surprisingly still remember).

Major Dave Bautista, a former SJSU faculty member and aerospace instructor, was someone who sniffed out my desire to learn and succeed in both Nursing and AFROTC, and did everything that he could to advocate for me as long as I continued to work hard as I had. He always encouraged me to give my all, and to continue to fight for my dreams no matter what. If it weren't for his guidance, I wouldn't be here today as a now registered nurse on my way to commission into the Air Force as a nurse, soon to be stationed in Texas at the San Antonio Military Medical Center.

Describe an experience that has made you who you are today.

The most influential college experience was during my first uniform inspection during AFROTC. I was standing in attention when a female trainer in her pressed Air Force blues and immaculate hair bun ran to me to deliver a death-inducing whisper into my ear. "Regardless of what circumstances brought you here in this present state," she hissed "you could have put more effort into your hair." In the military, the amount of effort that one puts into their uniform is a sign of respect for both themselves and the entity that they represent, and appearing with a uniform and appearance that isn't to standard is insulting to both the individual and the entity that the uniform represents. At that moment, I had no way of providing an excuse for myself because of the nature of the inspection. Honestly, even if I did have an opportunity to give an excuse, it didn't matter what it was. That moment taught me that if I really wanted something to happen, I would make it happen regardless of the circumstances. I would have made sure to complete my school work in a systematic and early matter one week prior and ask others for advise about how to tame short hair during a uniform inspection, so that I wasn't stumbling into the morning of my uniform inspection with a horrible hairdo. Conversely, if I had given my all to look exceptional during that day but did not succeed, I can be rest assured at the end of the day that I did my best.

What would you say to other students to encourage or inspire them to attain academic excellence?

To students looking for encouragement or inspiration to attain academic excellence:

  1. Be true to yourself and do what YOU want to do --this isn't anyone else's journey but yours. Doing well as a student helps if you're working toward something or doing something you are fascinated in. 
  2. Don't be discouraged if you haven't found what truly inspires you: continue to explore but do well in everything you do to keep different doors of opportunity open to you. 
  3. Use your brains to follow your heart (have a plan B, C, and D). 
  4. Don't be the person who endlessly complains about where you are or how things are. If there's something that you can do within the realm of your control about something you are upset or passionate about, make it happen. 
  5. Never stop asking about how you can improve or how things around you can improve. 
  6. Surround yourself with inspiring and supportive people. 
  7. Look at everything as a learning experience, and know that you are capable of more than you think you are...mentally, physically, spiritually.

What makes you a Spartan?

I'm a relentless fighter. I'd fight for me, and I'd fight for you. Give me any set of circumstances, and I'll always do my my best in the situation at hand if it's something I believe in. It's incredibly difficult for me to give up on anything I've been working hard on.


Nominated by Michael Pecher

"Joannaly endured a rigorous nursing program and overcame several obstacles to stay the course with honors, while also excelling in the AFROTC program simultaneously - a program of whom only 10% or less make it through here at SJSU. She deserves to be recognized for her positive attitude, enduring diligence in both tough programs while achieving Excellence in all she does, exemplifying our core values."