SJR Column: Nursing Program, September 2015

The start of the academic year is always an exciting time at UIS, especially for first-year students anticipating the many opportunities that a college experience provides. That excitement may be heightened this fall for about thirty trailblazing freshmen at the Springfield campus. These students have been admitted to the new nursing program – the first step to earning the Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing. The new BSN program is an innovative collaboration that includes UIS, the College of Nursing at the University of Illinois Chicago campus, and Springfield’s Memorial Health System.

As many area residents already know, health care now employs more people than state government in Springfield, becoming the number one employment sector in the region. According to the State of Illinois Center for Nursing, the demand for BSN-prepared nurses continues to grow across the state, with a shortage of more than 21,000 nurses estimated for Illinois by the year 2020. Thus, it is not surprising that nursing has been, for several years, one of the top undergraduate majors for which UIS receives inquiries from prospective students.

Jim Ermatinger, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at UIS, was an early advocate for this new BSN collaboration.

“Offering a nursing program is another important way for UIS to serve the community at the same time the program contributes to the overall growth priority of the campus,” he says.

“The bachelor’s degree experience will provide students with a liberal arts foundation and the core skills of critical thinking and expression that are so necessary for nursing professionals today.”

Linda McCown, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Clinical Lab Sciences at UIS, is also pleased with the presence of the new program. “I’m happy to have more health profession options for students on campus,” she says, “especially with an ivy-league caliber College of Nursing like UIC’s involved.”

Harsh Bapat is Associate Professor of Chemistry and already has pre-nursing students enrolled in his introductory Chemistry class this fall. He anticipates that “they will excel and improve the quality of the class as a whole.” Kanwal Alvarez, Assistant Professor in Biology, adds that “pre-nursing students bring another element of diversity to her biology courses – potentially adding value to classroom discussions that will benefit the entire class.”

Dr. Cynthia Reese, whose Ph.D. in Nursing Science is from Indiana University, is Director of the new UIC College of Nursing regional campus at UIS and has already settled in to her office on campus. Dr. Reese is no stranger to the medical community here, having spent more than ten years as a cardiac care nurse at Memorial and, more recently, as Associate Dean of Nursing at Lincoln Land Community College.

“The nursing profession is growing and changing,” says Dr. Reese, “and opportunities for highly-qualified nurses will keep expanding with the Affordable Care Act.”

She (and I) expect that many students who pursue their BSN degree in Springfield through the UIS/UIC/Memorial nursing collaboration will stay on and pursue their careers here in the area after they graduate – good news for health care and for the community.

Those future Springfield citizens might just include Kayla Metcalf, a talented graduate of Auburn High School who is one of six UIS freshmen selected to receive a $10,000 scholarship provided by Memorial as part of its substantial financial investment in the new nursing collaboration. Brooke Ginglen from Lewiston and Madison Reuss from Nashville, Illinois are also among the first Memorial Nursing Scholars.

Like their other nursing program classmates, Kayla, Brooke and Madison chose UIS because of its reputation for providing a high-quality, personalized education; but also because the collaboration with a top-ranked nursing program will prepare them well for a professionally satisfying career. Kayla and Madison hope to pursue specialties in anesthesia while Brooke aspires to be a nurse practitioner. We’ve got four years to convince them that those careers should happen right here in Springfield and we’re off to an excellent start.

Chancellor Susan J. Koch