Challey Spotlight: Abigail Johnson

The Challey Institute for Global Innovation and Growth is highlighting the impact of our faculty and students at NDSU and in the community. This month, we are shining a spotlight on Abigail Johnson.

Challey Spotlight: Abigail Johnson

Freshman, Pre-Nursing and International Studies

Abigail Johnson is a freshman studying pre-nursing and international studies with a minor in Spanish at NDSU. A native of St. Paul, Minnesota, Abigail is a member of the first cohort of Challey Undergraduate Fellows. After graduating from NDSU, Abigail plans to find work as a neonatal or pediatric nurse. With her interest in international studies and Spanish, she hopes to travel and use her nursing degree in South America. Abigail currently volunteers at the Sanford Dialysis center in Fargo.

Challey Institute activities: Challey Undergraduate Fellows program and scholarship recipient; “Pandemics and Liberty” colloquium; Menard Family Distinguished Speaker Series; IDEAS Research Workshop

You participated in the “Pandemics and Liberty” colloquium last fall. As a pre-nursing student, how was this experience valuable for you?

I really enjoyed the colloquium. I thought it was really interesting to get to hear from different students. We weren’t all freshman students, as all of my classes usually are; it was freshmen, sophomores, and just people that wanted to attend the seminar. That was really interesting because I got to see a bunch of different perspectives. Of course, in my pre-nursing classes, discussions of the pandemic have been healthcare-related: how do we address this and how can we help people? The colloquium focused much more on the policies and the ethics surrounding the pandemic, which was an interesting perspective that I don’t often get to talk about. I really enjoyed it. It gave me a new perspective and some new ideas to think about.

The Challey Institute hosts many events and speakers throughout the semester. Who has been your favorite speaker so far?

There was a speaker a few weeks ago [Greg Lukianoff] who talked about free speech and the issues surrounding free speech on college campuses. The organization that he’s involved in [Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)] was interesting to me. He talked about how free speech affects other people in relation to things like hate speech and how we can protect students’ free speech without limiting their creativity and their freedom on campus. It is important to have educational discussions and to be able to speak your mind without feeling like your ideas are shut down.

How will being a Challey Undergraduate Fellow help you reach your goals?

After school, I want to do neonatal nursing or pediatric nursing. I am pursuing an international studies major [and] I have a Spanish minor, so I would really want to go to South America to do nursing. I think that would be really interesting because I have been in St. Paul or Fargo my whole life, and it’d be nice to experience different places and cultures. I feel like the Challey Institute has really helped me gain new perspectives. I’ve had opportunities to participate in discussions and attend seminars on topics that I never would have thought that I wanted to learn about or was interested in, so I appreciate being pushed into new experiences and learning about new things that I otherwise wouldn’t get to discuss in my regular courses.

How have the scholarships you’ve received helped support your education?

The scholarships I have received from the Challey Institute and NDSU have helped me a lot. I work too, but the scholarships have helped me feel comfortable without working full-time. Without these scholarships, I would need to work a lot more. I wouldn’t be able to take advantage of as many opportunities and learn all the things that I want to learn. It has really helped me, and I feel very lucky to have received this scholarship.

The Sheila and Robert Challey Institute for Global Innovation and Growth aims to advance understanding in the areas of innovation, trade and institutions to identify policies and solutions that enhance economic growth and opportunity. Learn more at
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