Dr. Marcia Sotelo might be new to her role as the program director of the Doctor of Nursing Practice for ACU Online, but she is certainly not to the field of nursing and education. Self-proclaimed as a lifelong learner, Dr. Sotelo has allowed her life’s work and experience to guide her to where she is today. Now overseeing dozens of students looking to pursue their careers as nurse practitioners or future nursing educators, Dr. Sotelo is ecstatic to step into the role of guiding seasoned professionals into their calling both in clinical settings and academic classrooms alike.
With hopes of growing the program and expanding a general understanding of what it means to have a healthy work-life balance and strong spiritual life, Dr. Sotelo is already making moves and inspiring students to take their careers just as seriously as she does.
From Health Scare To Healthcare
Dr. Sotelo is a Texan, through and through. Having been born and raised in Austin, Texas, Dr. Sotelo knew that she never wanted to leave her home state. With her family nearby, Dr. Sotelo chose to go to school in-state and attended Baylor University in the 1990s majoring in Speech Pathology. After graduating, Dr. Sotelo went on with her life, got married, and later on became pregnant. Things seemed pretty normal and easy until Dr. Sotelo unexpectedly received news that her newborn daughter was experiencing complications. Shortly after giving birth, the nurses took her newborn daughter to the Intensive Care Unit for a series of tests and protocols to ensure she would stay alive. Dr. Sotelo was scared beyond belief and watched intently as the nurses took care of her daughter.
“I just remember being in the room and watching how they were taking care of my daughter,” Dr. Sotelo said. “They were so gentle and intelligent and knew exactly what to do to get my daughter back to normal. And it just hit me like, ‘Wow. Maybe I should go into nursing too.’”
After recovering at home and speaking with her husband, she decided it was time to make a career change and enrolled in an associate’s degree program in nursing at the Austin Community College. It was there that she learned the basic skills of nursing and her love for the field bloomed. Once she completed her program, Dr. Sotelo was encouraged to continue her studies and completed her bachelor’s degree at The University of Texas at Arlington to become a registered nurse.
“I just loved school so much,” Dr. Sotelo expressed.“ All of the classes made me so excited to keep learning. Plus, I had the support of my husband and family and it just made it all worthwhile for me. It was then that I started to think about teaching and giving back.”
Earning her master’s in Nursing Education from Western Governors University in 2015, Dr. Sotelo was doing it all. As a mom, clinical trainer, nurse and wife, Dr. Sotelo was showing off exactly what she could do. And in a very big way, what was possible when God is on your side. And while she was receiving awards and accolades left and right, Dr. Sotelo felt something inside her telling her to move into the next phase of her professional life: teaching and giving back.
Teaching and Training Future Nurses
In 2019, she began teaching adjunct teaching at various universities and technical colleges including the Baptist School of Health Professions, Grand Canyon University, Texas A&M International University, and Galen College of Nursing. Within the span of a few years, Dr. Sotelo worked up the ranks and started directing programs, teaching students, serving as a board member, and co-editing international academic publications. Dr. Sotelo had made a name for herself. Except one goal was missing. She always wanted to teach at Abilene Christian University.
As a kid growing up in central Texas, Dr. Sotelo had always heard about ACU. She had heard rumors about the students that went there, the type of education they received and the faculty members they employed. She wanted to be a part of that legacy. And, at a nursing conference in 2019, she saw her chance to introduce herself to Linda Gibson, the former program director of the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program at ACU Online.
“I walked up to her and pretty much told her I was very interested in teaching at the doctoral level,” Dr. Sotelo recalled. “And it didn’t take that long [before] I started getting involved in the DNP program and started teaching. It was pretty easy and honestly, a great feeling to reach my goal.”
Teaching classes like Advanced Clinical Practice and the Leadership Practicum as well as serving as a team member for students’ DNP projects, Dr. Sotelo’s exemplary work ethic led her to be a part of the growing department at ACU Online, including assisting in the accreditation process. Working tirelessly for the department and continuing to advocate for her students, Dr. Sotelo was offered the opportunity to serve as the program director and began her role in July 2023. She has reached her goal yet again. And this time, she was even more excited to work for a university as prestigious as ACU.
Today, Dr. Sotelo leads and administers the online DNP program while also recruiting, hiring, mentoring, and evaluating every full-time and adjunct faculty member in the program. Looking for ways to effectively coordinate her program’s budget and course curriculum, Dr. Sotelo aims to keep the department in tune with the needs and requirements of today’s healthcare system while still remaining competitive.
“The industry is changing and programs need to stay on top of that,” Dr. Sotelo remarked. “My goal is to push our students but also mold them into effective nurse practitioners, trainers, and leaders in the healthcare system. I look forward to that journey and I’m excited to get this going.”
Interested in pursuing your Doctor of Nursing Practice? ACU Online has the perfect degree for you filled with faculty members and program directors eager to help you get to your next career goal. Visit our website and learn more about our DNP offerings today.