Answered Prayers
Partial scholarships crucial for students
by Ryan T. Blystone

he decision to become a nurse was easy. Figuring out how to make that dream a reality could have been grueling.

While Michelle Chung, Emmalyn Siy and Erin Murphy each came to the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science with different needs and expectations, they shared a common goal. And given the nationwide shortage of nursing professionals, their determination was not only admirable but practical. USD’s Master’s Entry Program in Nursing (MEPN) — an accelerated track for students with a bachelor’s degree in a different subject but who want to get into nursing — looked like a perfect fit. Just one problem: How to pay for it?

Chung and Siy, both with psychology degrees, took different approaches to the dilemma. Chung checked out loan options. Siy had little time to research, as she was working two jobs to support her parents. And Murphy, armed with an art school degree in motion picture and television, was frustrated by scholarship applications that went nowhere.

Enter Anita Hunter, USD’s director of master’s and international nursing programs, a professor and grant writer. In September 2008, Hunter secured $100,000 from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Some of that funding enabled Chung and Siy to each receive a $10,000 RWJF New Careers in Nursing Scholarship.

“I was ecstatic,” Chung says. “I never thought, coming here, they would have somebody who would go out of their way to look for scholarships or grants and help the students. I feel indebted to USD. I want to give back when I graduate.”

Says Siy: “I was floored. I really was in desperate need of the money, and I think Dr. Hunter saw that I needed it. It meant a lot.”

The Danvera Foundation awarded Murphy a $5,000 scholarship in the spring. The foundation consistently supports USD’s nursing, science and English programs. “I was overwhelmed with joy,” Murphy says. “It was something I really needed. I’d spent so much time away from my studies applying for scholarships.”

Murphy attended USD’s annual spring scholarship luncheon, which pairs recipients with their donors, and thanked Danvera Foundation President Pat Morrin ’83 in person. The scholarship award has so inspired Murphy that she plans to give back to the university in a unique way. “I went to the Dominican Republic in January, and I got to help other people. I brought my video camera and shot 12 hours of documentary footage. I hope to put together a visual piece to promote nursing’s international programs to help them get funding.”

Hunter says securing financial aid for nursing students is critical. “The greatest reward is helping some really qualified applicants who otherwise would not be able to afford USD — to be able to come into our program.”

The MEPN students are beginning their second and final year in the program. Chung, Siy and Murphy are narrowing the path they’d each like to take in the nursing profession.

“The MEPN program opens doors,” Siy says. “You learn how to make connections, you learn how to talk to people and you learn essential skills for being a good nurse. I feel they’re preparing us very well to be good nurses, a good advanced nurse practitioner, nurse manager, flight nurse or any other kind of nurse.”