Kala Cornelius


Oneida and Menominee

Current Position

Community Health Nurse

Kala’s Path


Kala is from the Oneida and Menominee tribes of Wisconsin. She grew up on the Oneida reservation with her two older sisters and younger brother. Kala was very fortunate to have both her parents as role models who highly valued their family, Oneida culture and traditions, and higher education. Kala knew at a very young age she was going to go to college as it was the expected next step after high school. Kala knew she wanted to major in a health related field, but did not know right away it was going to be nursing. Health related degrees she was interested in included chiropractor, physical therapist, nurse practitioner, athletic training, and nursing.

AGE 10-13:

Kala attended the Oneida tribal school from Kindergarten to 8th grade. She started to participate in her first academic and college prep related camps starting in middle school. One of the first camps she remembers was the summer after her 6th grade when she attended a nursing camp on the UW-Madison campus. This was her first exposure to a college campus and a health related career. Kala appreciated the extra effort it took to maintain high honors, and enjoyed succeeding academically. She also participated in several organized sports such as cross country, volleyball, basketball, and track.

AGE 14-18:

Kala went outside the comfort of her Oneida community and attended a nearby public school for her Freshmen through Junior years. Academics, sports and cultural ties remained a priority. As a senior she decided to go back to the Oneida school system and graduated as salutatorian from the Oneida Nation High School. During her senior year she was able to get a head start on her higher education and attended college level classes at a nearby technical school. Kala also attended several health related summer camps during high school on various Wisconsin campuses and was also given the opportunity to travel to several different states (American Indian Science and Engineering and Association of American Indian Physicians).

AGE 18-22:

Kala attended Carol College in Waukesha, WI majoring in athletic training for her Freshman year. She chose the school because of its small size, the opportunity to play on a JV volleyball team, and it was somewhat close to home. Kala decided to transfer to UW-Oshkosh for her second year of college and maintained the athletic training major. After taking a few classes in the major, she realized she did not want to help only athletes, but instead wanted the opportunity to care for people of all ages and in various settings. Her focus then changed to nursing. During this change in her career path, Kala was also inspired by her sister Candi who is also a nurse and the experiences their family went through when her grandmother was in and out of hospitals suffering from heart disease. It took Kala several attempts to get accepted into the prestigious nursing program at UW-Oshkosh, and it took her longer than the “normal” four years of college, but she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in 2009.


Kala was unable to find a fulltime job in her home town after graduation due to the stress of the economy at the time on top of no “registered nursing” experience. She was able to work part time at a nursing home, which gave her some great experience as a new nurse. Unable to find her dream job right away, Kala decided to continue on with school and obtain a Master’s Degree at Bellin College in Green Bay. She partnered with her sister, who was a school nurse for several years already, and they both started the part time Nurse Educator program. After a year of the nursing home experience she gained, she then qualified for the Community Health Nurse role she currently holds. After finishing her Master’s program in 2012, Kala received an adjunct nursing instructor position for an associate degree and certified nurse assistant programs. She enjoys teaching students and giving back to the nursing field whenever she can. As her main career as a Community Health Nurse for six years, she has a true passion for working with her Oneida people, is invested in promoting a healthy community, and advocates for culturally safety within health care.


Kala was accepted to UW-Madison for the Doctor of Nursing Practice program, and started her first semester in the Fall of 2016. She is going to school part time while sustaining her full time job as a Community Health Nurse. She plans to graduate with a DNP degree in 2020, and return to her community where she can lead health related changes by focusing on disease prevention and holistic healing.