Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Blasts from the past

Written by: on January 25, 2024

I looked at the required reading for this week. The overwhelming feelings were familiar, yet distant. Vague, yet far too real. Was it panic? Overwhelm? Annoyance? Resolve? As I skimmed the table of contents, looked at the chapter summaries, and started to read, déjà vu hit me. In fast-paced flashbacks as saw large colorful volumes: green microbiology, red anatomy and physiology, purple pharmacology, tan pathophysiology. The blue book covers, the academic tone, the case studies—these aspects of the assigned readings for this week took me back to my undergraduate nursing program. Those where the years when I was on a first name basis with the university librarians. I clearly remember the late nights before tests as I thumbed through the textbook one last time, hoping any necessary information that I had forgotten would jump out and embed itself in my memory. These memories, although undoubtedly a bit skewed over the past almost twenty years, haunted me. I was not enjoying this walk down memory lane.

I do not know exactly what triggered these specific threshold concept memories. They played out in my mind before I could even articulate what a threshold concept was. A side note, I have learned that a threshold concept is an idea that moves someone from one way of thinking to a new, expanded way of thinking about that idea[1]. I did not enjoy the feelings that were initially elicited, but as I read, I could put “Kari, student nurse (SN)” in the scenarios, concepts, stages, and see how formative and pivotal those years of learning were.

Reflecting on those flashbacks, I realized something. The subjects in those images represented a part of the liminal phase of my journey as a student nurse. The liminal space is the area of transition when things are confusing and not yet clear [2]. Those subjects took a lot of work to memorize and learn. Understanding did not come easily and rarely immediately. In fact, most of my understanding happened much later in my training. Many times, I struggled to understand why this was relevant to me.  Liminality includes uncertainty and what Meyer and Land[3] would call “troublesome” thoughts. For me, everything seemed muddled and hard.

My brain rapid fired forward to my last semester of undergraduate studies. By now, thanks to my librarian friends, I had developed better study habits, discovered how I learned best, and resolved to enjoy my last year of school. I remember a huge shift that semester. I loved it! II studied the least number of hours. I had the best grades. I enjoyed the learning journey. What had changed? Theory and practice had come together for me. I had learned how to be a good nursing student. I was taking full responsibility of my patients, while under supervision. Memorized terminology had taken form into diseases affecting real people. I was ready to start my career as a nurse. I had survived the liminal part of the threshold concepts and had crossed into a new, transformative way of thinking. I had arrived at the transition point from being Kari, SN to Kari, soon to be registered nurse (RN). This was my calling and I was proud to a part of the bedside forces.

As I relived these memories from almost two decades ago. What I experienced my last semester as a student nurse showed me that hard work, perseverance, and embracing the unknown is what will move you into an area of new and exciting possibilities. Liminality can be embraced with anticipation of what one will discover through the journey of transformation. These memories propelled me on to the readings for this assignment. I knew that new threshold concepts awaited me.

As I read, I had one more flashback. This one brought more pleasant memories and feelings. I was in my nursing leadership class at the end of my undergraduate studies. Three classmates and I presented on the Kurt Lewin’s change theory. As I read through the process of threshold concepts, I kept picturing how it closely aligns with Lewin’s ideas. Lewin’s change theory is one that is widely used in nursing especially for organizational management. The concept is simple but effective. Phase one: unfreeze. This is when the recognition of the need for change occurs. This is the start of crossing the threshold. Phase two: change. This could also be called the liminal period, a time of transition that includes uncertainty and perhaps chaos. Phase three: refreeze. This is the point of transformation when the change becomes a permanently a different form [4]. To help visual learners like me, we used popsicles to show Lewin’s theory. The popsicles in their original state starting to unfreeze with a new idea, their state of change (liquid), and refrozen in a new shape and form. Little did I know that this threshold was being imprinted in my memory in preparation for transformation into Kari, RN, BSN, CRNP, MSN, FNP-BC, FNP-C, GFU doctoral student.


[1] Jan Meyer and Ray Land, “Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge: Issues of Liminality,” in Overcoming Barriers to Student Understanding: Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge, ed. Jan Meyer and Ray Land (New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 2006), 19.

[2] Virginia Tucker, “Learning Experiences and Liminality of Expertise,” in Threshold Concepts in Practice, ed. Ray Land, Jan Meyer, and Michael Flanagan, vol. 68, Educational Futures: Rethinking Theory and Practice (Rotterdam, Netherlands: Sense Publishers, 2016), 95.

[3] Ibid., p.19.

[4] Maria Shirey, “Lewin’s Theory of Planned Change as a Strategic Resource,” Journal of Nursing Administration 43, no. 2 (2013): 69–72, https://doi.org/10.1097/NNA.0b013e31827f20a9.

About the Author



Kari is a passionate follower of Jesus. Her journey with Him currently has her living in the Sahara in North Africa. With over a decade of experience as a family nurse practitioner and living cross-culturally, she enjoys being a champion for others. She combines her cross-cultural experience, her health care profession, and her skills in coaching to encourage holistic health and growth. She desires to see each person she encounters walk in fullness of joy, fulfilling their God-designed purpose. “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Romans 12:12 ESV

12 responses to “Blasts from the past”

  1. Nancy Blackman says:

    Hi Kari! I enjoyed reading your journey in education. As you were connecting the dots, it was helping me connect more dots in my academic journey — the good, the bad, and the ugly.

    At one point you said, reflecting on your nursing education, that “hard work, perseverance, and embracing the unknown is what will move you into an area of new and exciting possibilities.”

    What if it doesn’t?

    Your sentence created a flashback for me when I was in my first year of university, putting in the hard work, persevering and embracing the unknown … and I failed miserably. So miserably that the university asked me to leave.

    What I learned later on is that I was the orange trying to be an apple. So … is it possible that you can put that hard work, perseverance and embrace the unknown, and it will produce exciting new possibilities BUT only if it’s in an area that you are interested in? Because that was my eventual experience … when I finally landed in art school.

    I love how you connected Lewin’s theories into all of this. Did that create an aha moment for you?

    Thanks for sharing, Kari. That was so enjoyable to read!

    • mm Kari says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Nancy. Perhaps this comes from being a chronic optimist, but I would say that your journey, even the parts that included moments of “failure,” did eventually lead you to discovering more of yourself and God-designed uniqueness. I believe the moments that are hard and do not turnout how we would preferred can be viewed as God directing us to who He created us to be. I will never be an artist. But through people like yourself, I have been encouraged to embrace my creative side–which I have! It just does not look the same as you.

      Lewin’s theory was not an ah-ha moment for me. However, the class I was in at the time (Nursing Leadership) WAS an ah-ha experience as I realized I could, I would, and I wanted to be a leader in my profession. Obviously, God has continued to grow that desire or I wouldn’t be pursuing a doctorate in leadership 😊

  2. Adam Cheney says:

    Are those initials after your name degrees and certificates or local TV stations that you get? I think I read MSNBC and CNN or something like that.
    As we are beginning this program what are the next threshold concepts you think you will need to move past in order to get to the next stage of thinking about leadership ideas? Are there any threshold concepts that you are weary of overtaking?

    • mm Kari says:

      Adam, you guessed it! TV stations for sure 😉. I think the one threshold concept I am working through right now is not needing to be perfect, understand 100%, nor have full knowledge of things. I need to be able to know where to go for answers and how to direct others there. The area where I am not quite ready to jump into the liminal stage in is changing my note-taking and using obsidian. It is overwhelming to even think about, even when I have amazing classmates who are willing to help me with it!

  3. Diane Tuttle says:

    Kari, thank you for your honesty about your reflections of early in the week. Reading your journey through it to enjoying your senior year is encouraging. Your life is a manifestation that the benefit of living through the threshold times yields a remarkable result. I am curious where you are on this current journey. Peace.

  4. Noel Liemam says:

    Hi, Kari, I enjoyed reading your post as well. Not only that, but the journey that you took. When reading about threshold concepts and the liminal space, I myself wonder if the reason why I am on this GFU journey is because I need to discover who I am. In my early college years, I went in various directions, but I could say that I never break through the threshold confidently. I am hoping that on this journey, I would break through the threshold and discover myself. Thanks again for your posting, it inspires me to think.

  5. Jeff Styer says:

    Thanks for your honest reflection of your undergraduate nursing experience. I sometimes can relate to what you said. Until I started teaching social work, some of the concepts I learned and promptly forgot, not realizing the importance and how they all fit together. I teach macro level social work classes and they are the students least favorite classes. They all want to do micro level social work, not work with communities or develop policies. I am trying to excite students and get them to see the connections between micro and macro, a threshold concept for them. As a relatively new professor, I am still learning threshold concepts related to effective post secondary education teaching strategies. Hopefully I can obtain a few aha moments.

  6. mm Chris Blackman says:

    Kari – that’s a lot of letters!! you need to buy a vowel 🙂
    (Okay… is it Kari like Mary or Kari like Car -ee – I don’t want to say it wrong). I love the first phase of Lewin’s program – unfreeze. What a great way to start the process of learning and/or management. Makes me want to study that process.
    Thank you for sharing all of your flashbacks with us! What would you have done differently if you were to do anything different in your learning journey?

    • mm Kari says:

      Thanks, Chris! It is Kari closer to Mary, but we say it with a New York/New Jersey accent (closest way to describe is the “a” in apple or market).

      The only thing I would have changed is scheduled in some more intentional “fun” time during my education journey. I’m trying to remember this for this current journey!

  7. Erica Briggs says:

    I agree, Kari. I find that the troublesome knowledge shifts when theory moves into practice, illuminating the liminal and making things clear. Sometimes I think that’s why it’s easier for me to just jump in to practice first and then apply the theory that matches what I learned because then I have context to sort of translate the theory. Which study habits helped most in making that shift for you? I wonder if feelings of enjoyment that last year perhaps impacted that shift as well?

    • mm Kari says:

      Hi Erica, I do think the enjoyment I felt during both semesters of my senior year helped a lot. What helped me the most was to intentionally STOP studying and doing something fun. I’ve learned that I do very well giving myself timed assignments to study then a brain break.

  8. Akwése Nkemontoh says:

    Kari, I really enjoyed reading this and appreciate you sharing a sliver of your learning journey. You had me hooked straight off as you described the feelings that flooded your emotions this week, ha!

    That said, I felt such a deep sense of hope when you said ” I remember a huge shift that semester…. Theory and practice had come together for me. I had learned how to be a good nursing student.” Being in this program for sure brings with it the opportunity for MANY threshold moments, which inevitably means that we’ll have to navigate the not-so-fun liminal phases, but know I’m here with you in it. Cheers to the joruney again and thanks again for highlighting that there is always light at the end of the tunnel, as was eveident from your previous adedemic studies.

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