After Years of Serving, Future Nurse Found Her True Calling at MATC

Former volleyball player, current assistant volleyball coach and Army veteran on path to career in healthcare

Mark Feldmann,

November 27, 2023

Colleen DeLisle

I really think I have found my calling with nursing. On my first day of my first clinical, I felt I belonged. MATC helped me find that.

Colleen DeLisle Former MATC student, and volleyball player

MILWAUKEE – Perhaps it was only a matter of time before Colleen DeLisle ended up at Milwaukee Area Technical College.

Her father, James DeLisle, earned an associate degree in Printing and Publishing from MATC in 1984. He was the keynote speaker for the college’s 2015 Spring Commencement and has received MATC’s Distinguished Alumnus Award.

Her mother, Shel DeLisle, has been head coach for the Stormers women’s volleyball team since July 2017, when Colleen was a highly recruited volleyball player at Kettle Moraine High School.

In 2022 – after completing basic training in the United States Army in 2018, serving in the military police, earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration from St. Norbert College in 2022, and considering a career in social work – DeLisle found herself taking science courses at MATC to prepare for a career in nursing.

“I have always believed that life until your thirties is a time to figure things out,” DeLisle said. “I never wanted to put all my eggs in one basket. I was lucky I had a great support system that helped me feel secure in whatever I wanted to do.”

Thanks to her MATC classes, DeLisle in January 2023 was one of 11 students accepted into the Direct Entry Master of Nursing program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM). The accelerated program is designed for students who hold a non-nursing bachelor’s degree and wish to pursue an advanced degree in nursing.

“I asked her what she would do if she didn’t get in,” said her mother, Shel DeLisle. “She just looked at me and asked ‘why wouldn’t I get in?’ That’s Colleen in a nutshell. She’s very determined and always has been.”

Dedicated to service

DeLisle’s determination goes back to her days as a Girl Scout. At 13, she traveled to Haiti to teach reading and literacy to underprivileged children on the island. “I saw poverty in real time,” she said. In middle school she created literacy programs at schools in Milwaukee, Kenya and Ecuador. In 2018, she was named the Girls Scouts of Southeast Wisconsin Young Woman of Distinction. 

On the volleyball court, she was just as determined and decorated. DeLisle was recruited by dozens of college teams and planned to attend the University of Alabama, but her deep commitment to service compelled her to join the Army.   

“My goal was to go on active duty right away,” she said. “I had been doing service all my life. The military seemed like an even bigger service to something much bigger than myself.”

She spent five months at basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, served in the military police and is still active in the Army National Guard. The time away convinced her that she missed home, so she returned and enrolled at St. Norbert College near Green Bay. She played on the volleyball team in 2019 and earned Academic All-Conference honors from the Midwest Conference. 

“Colleen enrolled fresh out of Army boot camp and immediately connected with the team,” recalled St. Norbert coach B.J. Bryant. “She became someone everyone relied on. As a player, her greatest strength is her versatility and ability to play multiple positions at a moment’s notice. She is also a fierce competitor and always brings out the best in others.”

The next season she hurt her ankle and played sparingly. She graduated in the spring of 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. She thought about social work but had always been interested in nursing. 

Coming to MATC

In the fall of 2022, she enrolled at MATC to take science courses, and her mother cajoled her back on to the volleyball court. “She convinced me just to play for fun,” DeLisle said. “So, I did and I ended up having a blast.”

She was selected to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) All-Region Team and the Northern Community College Conference first team. 

In the classrooms at MATC, she was a focused, excited student. 

“I was interested and intrigued,” she said. “MATC has such a nice environment. They have smaller classes, so the instructors knew me. They would ask me about my life. You don’t get that connection with classes of 100 or 150 students. I felt like I could go to my instructors and they would take the time for me to understand what I needed to understand.”

This fall she started at UWM and is serving a clinical rotation at Ascension SE Wisconsin Hospital in Brookfield. She will be eligible to sit for the NCLEX-RN examination, allowing her to work as a registered nurse while completing her remaining master’s degree credits.

“I really think I have found my calling with nursing,” she said. “On my first day of my first clinical, I felt I belonged. MATC helped me find that.”

She also joined her mother on the sideline as an assistant coach for the Stormers volleyball team and helped the team reach unprecedented heights. The team had its first winning season ever (finishing 20-15), hosted and won a NJCAA playoff match for the first time in at least two decades, and made it to the regional semifinals, losing to Madison College on November 4.

Read about the 2023 women's volleyball season

“I’ve been supporting this team ever since my mom started here,” DeLisle said. “It’s so cool to see her build the program the way she has. My dad went here, and he talks all the time about how different the college is nowadays. I’m insanely proud of how much goodness they have helped bring to the school.”

ABOUT MATC: Wisconsin’s largest technical college and one of the most diverse two-year institutions in the Midwest, Milwaukee Area Technical College is a key driver of southeastern Wisconsin’s economy and has provided innovative education in the region since 1912. Nearly 28,000 students per year attend the college’s four campuses and community-based sites or learn online. MATC offers affordable and accessible education and training opportunities that empower and transform lives in the community. The college offers more than 180 academic programs; and transfer options leading to bachelor’s degrees with more than 40 four-year colleges and universities. Overwhelmingly, MATC graduates build careers and businesses in southeastern Wisconsin. The college is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.