Kori and Ryan Harakel are expecting a baby boy—their first child, to be named Gabriel—in late August or early September, and she is already gaining valuable experience while working as a secretary on a maternity floor on the weekends.
She’s working hard to finish her last few papers before graduating from Mercy College of Health Sciences in August 2015 with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Health Care Administration—and extremely thrilled to have received the college’s BSHCA Student of the Year award this summer.
She and her husband, Ryan, a student in Bachelor of Science in Health Science program at Mercy College, are anxiously awaiting news on his application to the military’s medical school, the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland.
It’s an understatement to say that Kori Harakel has a great deal on her plate this summer. But in talking with her, one thing is clear: Her deep gratitude for every part of it.
(In the above photo, Kori and Ryan are wearing apparel from their favorite outfitter, Nine Line. The name ‘Nine Line’ is iconic in nature and easily recognizable by any service member – past, present, or future. In combat, a Nine Line is an emergency medevac request, and is often the difference between life and death for the most severely wounded.)
“The countdown is on,” she says with a laugh. “I was absolutely shocked and honored to receive the BSHCA Student of the Year award. Also having my first baby who is a true miracle, all while we patiently wait for Ryan to receive his interview invite to USUHS.”
The couple, who met and became friends in an Army medical unit at Ft. Lewis in Washington, were deployed to Iraq in 2007 for over a year. (“Think MASH,” Kori says. “We lived in tents for the first seven months.”) They began dating after returning home, and were married in July 2009, about a year after their return. Just two months later, Ryan was deployed again and the newlyweds were separated for a year. Ryan returned at the end of 2010, and has continued to serve in the Army Reserves.
“It was pretty much a nightmare, being here in the States and knowing what Ryan was going through in Iraq again,” says Kori, who served four years in active duty and three in the reserves before leaving the military. “As tough as it is there, it would have been easier to have been deployed with him again.”
In 2012, the couple came to Des Moines for the opportunity to continue their educations at Mercy, he in pre-med (he’s scheduled to graduate in 2016) and she in health care administration.
“I always wanted to attend a private Christian college, and we could not be happier when we both were accepted,” she says. “I absolutely love Mercy College. Being here has been like getting a giant hug. Every single professor and staff member I’ve encountered has gone above and beyond to help us earn our degrees and I could not be more grateful to them. My program chair and Professor Dr. Suzanne Crandall, Todd Kranpitz, and Dr. Joe Moravec have been my mentors and have helped me every step of the way.”
Since both are veterans, they were able to qualify for tuition and other assistance through the GI Bill. Kori credits Mercy College Registrar Carolyn Bucklin for helping them navigate all the complex paperwork.
“Carolyn is the VA representative for Mercy, and she is top notch,” Kori says. “She’s helped us with so much—she deserves an award. I changed my major, but with her help, it was seamless.”
She has just as much praise for the faculty at Mercy College. Although she took most of her classes online, Kori made a point of going in to meet professors in person and found them extremely accessible.
“It has been like going from our military family to the Mercy College family, and we are so thankful,” she says. “You can call or email the professors any time you have questions or are struggling, and they respond promptly. I needed a certain number of hours of practicum experience, and I was able to do part of my hours with my former finance professor at Mercy, Todd Kranpitz, who is also the Executive Director of Radiology, Respiratory Therapy, and the Sleep Lab at UnityPoint Health Des Moines. I really got to see the highest level of health care management in action thanks to him.”
When Ryan is accepted to the USUHS, they’ll move to Maryland next year with their son and two boxers. Kori plans to be a stay-at-home mom for the first year or so, but would really love to go on to earn a Master’s in Health Care Administration.