Swain School servant leaders dedicating futures to caring for others

The Citadel Photo

Photo above: Cadet Colleen Riegerix (right) with peers during medical internship for radiology

During one of the greatest pandemics in global history, men and women of The Citadel are moving ahead to dedicate their lives to caring for others through careers in healthcare.

“I will continue my job as a 911 paramedic at Orangeburg County EMS and, after passing the nursing board exam, will also work as a Critical Care Intensive Care Unit or Emergency Room registered nurse (RN),” said Serena Johnston, Citadel Graduate Class of 2020. “As a paramedic, I provide care to trauma patients. As an RN, I will be providing intense bedside care to critically-ill patients. I will provide this care with the high-quality education and training I have received from The Citadel and the exemplary nursing professors at our college.”

Johnston is one of 20 graduates from the Swain Department of Nursing. One of her peers, AnaMalae Lealofiamoa Tia, is a newly commissioned officer in the U.S. Army and is The Citadel’s first nursing graduate to serve in the military.

“The Citadel has helped shape the person and leader that I am. The people who I have met here have helped mold me into the nurse I will be,” Tia said upon graduating.

The college’s inaugural class of nursing cadets and students graduated a year ago.

“When we envisioned a department of nursing at The Citadel, we knew the critical importance of this noble profession and hoped to address the shortage of nurses in the armed forces and nationwide. However, we never imagined creating a program that will meet such an immediate need during a global pandemic,” said Christopher C. Swain, M.D., ’81, chairman of The Citadel Foundation Board of Directors and one of the founders of the Swain Department of Nursing. “Our family congratulates the Swain School of Science and Mathematics Class of 2020, and particularly those pursing health care careers, for their courage as they prepare to serve our community in such a profound and meaningful way.”

Meet some of the Swain School’s Class of 2020 healthcare bound graduates

Cristian Baguer

Degree: Biology
Destination: U. S. Army Reserves while pursing a master’s degree in prosthetics and orthotics 
Hometown: South Bend, Indiana

“The best reason to attend The Citadel is the lifelong bonds with friends that we all make.”

John DeStefano

Degree: Biology
Destination: Medical school at the Medical University of South Carolina
Hometown: Charleston, South Carolina

“For premedical students, there is no better place in South Carolina than The Citadel. Over 50,000 people apply to medical school every year, but only 40% get accepted. The people you are competing against are the top of their class with high GPAs and MCAT scores from household-name universities. The differentiating factor in the application process is the uniqueness and meaningfulness of the experience of each individual in their pursuit of a medical career. There are few places in the country that provide quite as unique or meaningful an experience as The Citadel. I interviewed for medical school along with my peers from Columbia, Vanderbilt, Johns Hopkins, Amherst, and even Harvard, but I had something that set me apart and three years of development that gave me confidence. For motivated students ready to learn, you will have professors to help guide you along each step of the way. You’ll have friends that last a lifetime. You will have MUSC, which affords fantastic research and volunteer opportunities, a stone’s throw away.”

Charles Evans

Degree: Exercise Science
Destination: Physician’s Assistant (PA) school; orthopedic surgery
Hometown: Greenville, South Carolina

“The best reason to attend The Citadel is the discipline and responsibility it instills in each cadet.”

Serena Johnston, Citadel Graduate College

Degree: Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
Destination: ER
Hometown: Charleston, South Carolina

“Initially after graduation I will take time to study and prepare for the NCLEX (RN licensing exam). While studying I will return to my current employment as a 911 Paramedic at Orangeburg County EMS. After passing the NCLEX boards I plan on pursuing employment as a Critical Care Intensive Care Unit (CCICU) or Emergency Room (ER) RN. Eventually, after the required experience I would like to pursue my specialty certification for either or both paths and then begin work on a Master’s Degree in Nursing.

As a paramedic I will be providing direct care to emergent and non-emergent trauma and medical patients. As a registered nurse in the ER or ICU I will be providing intense bedside care to critically ill patients. I will provide this care with the high-quality education and training I have received from The Citadel and the exemplary nursing professors at this college. While caring for patients I will be applying the Swanson Theory of Caring that has been taught to us.

I was born and raised in Charleston. This is my home. The Citadel has always been viewed with the highest regard in Charleston as a college of excellence with a long line of distinguished graduates that I am proud to walk behind. I believe in what The Citadel stands for Honor, Duty, Respect! For me it is the only way to live.”

Cory McIntosh

Degree: Exercise Science
Destination: Physical therapy school
Hometown: Sumter, South Carolina

“The friendships that come along with a cadet experience are truly amazing.”

Colleen Riegerix

Cadet Coleen Riegerix with sister Rachel Andrew, ’12, Andrew’s husband (left), and Andrew’s daughter, Rosie

Degree: Exercise Science
Destination: School of Radiology, Mercy Hospital, St. Louis
Hometown: St. Louis

“The best reason to attend The Citadel is that it is the road less traveled. It might be an unconventional choice and, as we all know, it leads you down a different path than everyone else. If you are up for a challenge, do it.

I came to The Citadel because I wanted to be a part of something important and I wanted that ring! My brother was the first to attend and then my sister ended up following two years later. I started running around on this campus when I was eight years old so I have been on this campus for “too long” some might say!

No matter what is going on throughout your time as a cadet, when you look at that ring you define it as what represents your time. I am so happy that I made the choice to come to The Citadel and I can’t wait to walk across the virtual stage with my 20 brothers and my 1 sister, remembering the amazing times I got to share with them. I love them all, they are truly my second family. Delta company 2020: ‘You did not wake up to be mediocre.'”

Christian Shave

Degree: Health and Human Performance
Destination: Medical University of South Carolina, Doctor of Physical Therapy program, followed by active duty with U.S. Army Medical Specialist Corps
Hometown: Howell, New Jersey

“The Citadel provided connections that opened doors for me in healthcare and in the military.”

AnaMalae Tia

Degree: Bachelor of Science in Nursing
Destination: U.S. Army
Hometown: Aiea, Hawaii

“The Citadel has helped shape the person and leader that I am. The people who I have met here have helped mold me into the nurse I will be. It is a place that is credited with giving me a vast wealth of knowledge and experience. There is no other school that can produce the connections and lifelong friendships that this one gives.”

When Vice President Mike Pence addressed the South Carolina Corps of Cadets at The Citadel on Feb. 19, 2020, Tia was one of the people he spoke about.

“I’m told that when she was growing up, she used to help her family take care of her great-grandmother, and that experience inspired her to become a nurse.

But when she was debating where to go to college, it didn’t take her long to decide where to go.  Her father had served in the U.S. Army for nearly 30 years, and she was drawn to The Citadel’s sense of discipline and accountability, as I was told.

And she made the most of her opportunities here.  Today, she is a Gold Star/Deans List cadet, and her parents and her community couldn’t be prouder.  Would you join me in recognizing an incredible young woman who, this May, will become The Citadel’s first Army nurse, Cadet AnaMalae Tia.”

Vice President Mike Pence

The full list of The Citadel’s second graduating class of Bachelor of Science in Nursing cadets and students:


William Miller Brunson
Holden Keefe Culler      
Christian Alexander Lee
Andrew Michael Mappus
Jessy Lenea Page
Caricia  Rodriguez
Hunter Wes Smith
AnaMalae Lealofiamoa Tia        

Evening Undergraduate Students

Shanna Michelle Bacon Lynn
LaTisha Janay Bowman
Crystyn Neely Brown
Lacurtia Dijohnnaise Chapre Brown
Robert Taylor Carsten
Tabatha Anne Carter
Serena Alicia Johnston
Alexis Ellen Lehman
Mallory Sandra Lipton
Samantha Janette Metts
Hannah Gislina Mackenzie Morris
Charisty Lynn Pippen