Rylee Brachle has had her sights set on higher education since she was a child.

When she was in elementary school her single mother finished her bachelor’s degree at The University of New Mexico. “She brought me to class a few times,” she recalls. “I thought UNM was huge back then – a place that I kind of wanted to be.”

Brachle will graduate with bachelor of science degree this fall from the UNM College of Population Health with a second major in psychology. She hopes to take a few months off before applying for the new accelerated bachelor of science in nursing program at the UNM College of Nursing.

But she won’t stop there.

“I want to go back and get a doctorate of nursing practice and be a psychiatric nurse practitioner,” she says, explaining that her studies in the College included a focus on mental health and substance use issues.

“I would like to work as a psychiatry provider in the underserved areas in the state, to address opioid and alcohol-use disorders,” she says. “The College of Population Health has provided me with skills to address the various areas of health, and the passion to serve in New Mexico.

Brachle started at UNM in 2020 in the midst of the COVID pandemic, having completed high school in Farmington along with an associate’s degree in liberal arts from San Juan College. Her mother, who had gone on to complete a master’s degree in speech language pathology, encouraged her educational aspirations.

“I knew I wanted to move back here to Albuquerque,” she says. “I knew I wanted to attend UNM, because that’s where my mom went. I was looking on the website and I thought, ‘Population health – that sounds interesting.’”

Thanks to her associate’s degree credits, Brachle completed the rest of her Population Health coursework in 16 months. Highlights included classes in population health biology, health communications and a project on gun violence. It’s such a public health issue,” she says.

For now, she plans to take it easy and perhaps continue her newfound hobby of entering pageants.

“I haven’t really had any breaks from school,” she says. “In the end it worked out . . . I’m kind of glad I did it this way.”