Alumni Spotlight: Ashley, DNP, “The Act of Gratitude”

Today, we’re highlighting Ashley Lunkenheimer’s DNP Project work, which focused on keeping nurses engaged in the workforce. Ashley graduated with her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree in May 2022.  Here’s Ashley’s story.


“I’d like to be the first person to introduce you to Dr. Ashley Lunkenheimer!” My professor Dr. Paul announced to my family and friends as I completed my final defense of my dissertation project to the doctoral board in April of 2022. My eyes welled up with pride as my parents, grandparents, husband, kids, and friends listened and cheered on the call. I am the first person to graduate college in my family- including aunts, uncles, cousins… everyone. I wanted to make my family proud, I wanted all their sacrifice to make this path possible, mean something and I wanted them to hear that I couldn’t be “Dr. Lunkenheimer” without them.

I am a full-time clinical leader in a hospital with three small children. I completed my doctoral project while fighting the Covid pandemic on the frontlines in a local ER, pregnant with our third baby. Aspen allowed me to serve my community, love my family, and still chase my dreams.

The focus of my doctoral project was how to keep nurses engaged in the hospital-based workforce. We know that by 2040, the nursing population will be cut in half due to retirements and with an aging population, healthcare demand is growing at an insurmountable rate. Interestingly, the idea for this project came before we even knew what the word Covid was. It was timely, now more than ever, leaders had to engage frontline staff to serve our communities to believe in the work we do. After extensive research and process testing, we found that the most impactful strategy a leader can employ was simply the act of gratitude. Recognizing clinicians for their sacrifice, for the goodness they bring to work every day, and for always going above and beyond in servitude to those who needed them most.

I am honored to have earned my Doctorate degree while in the middle of the world’s first pandemic in over 100 years. My education was used to recognize the brave folks willing to give of themselves in the absolute hardest time to be in healthcare. I was able to recognize my family and the sacrifices they made for me to be here. Lastly, I was able to show my small children that there is no limit to their dreams- they can be parents, they can serve their communities, they can earn the highest of degrees and they can do it all with joy, purpose, and with honor. Thank you, Aspen University!


Ashley’s DNP Project will continue to impact the landscape of nurses in the workforce.  Her caring, hard work, and focus on gratitude exemplify values that Aspen values in all students. 

Interested in the DNP program? Click here for more information.

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