Student-athlete Tala Spates has dreamed of working in the medical field since she was a little girl.
Originally from Baton Rouge, she chose UL Lafayette and its exceptional nursing program because it was the best fit. She is also a member of the Ragin’ Cajuns Track and Field Team.
“UL Lafayette had everything I was looking for in a school,” said Tala. “The nursing program is amazing, the campus is the perfect size, and I absolutely love the track team and staff. I most definitely made the right decision to choose to study here.”
Tala plans on attending medical school and pursuing her dream of becoming an OB/GYN. Her education and experiences in the nursing program are preparing her for success.
“The nursing program does a great job preparing us for reality. Nursing is not an easy job and it’s not always pretty, so I love how challenging the program is and feel as though this prepares us for the future.”
“I also love the support system here,” she added. “All of my professors are extremely understanding and genuinely want to see me succeed.”
Hands-On Experiences in Nursing & Beyond
The hands-on learning experiences in her classes make the nursing program exciting for Tala.
“I’m getting hands-on experiences in healthcare and am learning about different perspectives, which will make me a more competent doctor in the future,” she said.
“Dr. Waltz’s human anatomy classes was my favorite. This class was extremely interesting. I was able to learn just about everything involving the human body in the most interesting ways,” Tala said.
“We dissected pigs and cats on our own and we were also able to take a closer look at a sheep’s brain and a cow’s kidney. This class was not the easiest, but I was so impressed by the material I was learning that my grade in the class did not even matter to me — I was just happy to be learning!”
For Tala, this new knowledge can be applied everywhere.
“Now, I am able to explain to my family members why they have certain diseases and conditions based on my knowledge from this class. Also, it feels great to be able to watch 'Grey’s Anatomy' and know some of the medical terminology that they use.”
Tala appreciates that there are opportunities at UL Lafayette to explore and study areas outside of her comfort zone.
“I love the fact that this campus is so diverse and offers so much to me. I am not limited to anything in particular,” she said.
One way she challenged herself outside of the rigorous nursing program was through dance.
“I absolutely loved my modern dance and jazz dance class with Mrs. Kristi Carr. It was such a laid-back class and it got me out of my comfort zone,” she said. “I never was the type of person to dance, especially in front of people. However, this class gave me a completely different perspective. I plan to take another dance class before I graduate.”
Life in the Fast Lane
Running has always been therapeutic for Tala, and she finds her escape from reality on the track.
“When I am on the track I feel like a completely new person,” she said. “I feel nothing but the desire to win. I forget about all of the assignments that I have due and all of my personal problems. Everything disappears.”
Even after exploring other universities, Tala knew she was meant to be a Ragin’ Cajun.
“This was the right place for me and I knew it with everything in my heart. Whenever I thought of calling Coach Badon and telling him that I had decided to attend another school, I would break down and cry because I knew that this is the place God wanted me to be,” she said.
For Tala, being a student-athlete has taught her lessons that apply to all aspects of life.
“As a student-athlete, I’ve learned how to manage my time. It is not as easy as most people think. I have obligations to my coaches and team as well as my professors and myself,” she said.
“Whenever I am not at practice, I have to manage my time wisely because I still have to maintain my GPA, not only to remain eligible to compete, but to also remain a student in the nursing program. I have to prioritize the things that will matter the most.”
Tala appreciates the level of support her coaches have given her, which started even before she arrived on campus.
“My coaches are definitely invested in my success,” she said. “Before I signed, they made sure to let me know that their main concern wasn’t how fast I could run, but that I graduate with the degree I wanted. They want me succeed in life without track. School is always the first priority.”
UL Lafayette offers several resources to keep student-athletes on track.
“We have the Student-Athlete Academic Center where we complete our study hall hours,” said Tala. “There are free tutors there to help us and free printing. With all of the resources and help, there is no excuse for us to fail in the classroom.”
She is also grateful for the leadership and professional development experiences available to her.
“I am a Student-Athlete Advisory Committee representative for the track team. I collaborate on volunteer projects for the different sports and I communicate any issues that my teammates have to the committee.
"Also, I was given many different opportunities to connect with people, which taught me how to form professional relationships with individuals, as well as how to carry myself in professional settings.
“As a future doctor, I will need to effectively communicate with my patients and colleagues in order to competently complete my job.”