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Nursing School Awarded $2 Million to Increase Workforce Diversity

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Cal State Fullerton’s School of Nursing received $497,244, the first installment of an approximate $2 million, four-year grant, to further enhance the diversity of its students.

The federal award is one of 30 in the nation — and the only one in California — granted this year by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Resources and Services Administration Division of Nursing.

Seeking to address the social determinants that create challenges for disadvantaged and underrepresented nursing students, the School of Nursing will use the funding to launch a new project called “Enrichment Markers of Better Relationships, Academics and Cultural Enhancement” (EMBRACE).

“Ultimately, the grant is going to help us graduate professional nurses who understand cultural variances, exhibit cultural competency and value diversity in the workplace,” said Stephanie Vaughn, professor and director of the School of Nursing.

Funds will support the hiring of a learning specialist and counselor for the School of Nursing, a comprehensive review of its admissions process, cultural competence training for faculty and staff, and program evaluation for each component. In addition, a total of $600,000 is earmarked for student scholarships over the next four years.

“Having a dedicated learning specialist and nursing counselor are critical to helping us understand and address those deeper level needs that may be preventing or delaying our students from graduating,” said Deanna Jung, coordinator of pre-licensure programs and assistant professor of nursing, citing such barriers as reading and writing gaps, food insecurity, homelessness and family responsibilities.

The School of Nursing aims to achieve a 20 percent increase in the number of underrepresented students, particularly Latinos, across its undergraduate and graduate programs by developing a holistic admissions process in partnership with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and CSUF’s Office of Admissions.

“According to the research in this area, holistic admissions can help to increase the number of underrepresented students,” said Vaughn. “By looking at more than just SATs and GPAs alone, we hope to bring in a population of students with a variety of experiences that may even be more reflective of our community.”

Over the course of the grant, a coalition of nurse executives, faculty and nursing students will develop a white paper to share best practices and other evidence-based strategies that can be used in academia and the workplace to enhance the support of diverse health care providers, especially registered nurses.

“Many schools are implementing a variety of programs to support underrepresented students, but without the evaluation component it is difficult to determine what actually works,” said Sarah Douville, doctor of nursing practice program specialist. “One of the goals of this grant is to determine best practices and then share them with the rest of the nursing education community and nurse employers.”