Mary Black School of Nursing Announces $1.95 Million HRSA Grant To Help Disadvantaged Students Succeed

June 14, 2021 at 12:03 pm

The University of South Carolina Upstate is pleased to announce its Mary Black School of Nursing (MBSON) has been awarded a four-year, $1.95 million grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) that will support MBSON’s Holistic Opportunities and Partnerships that Empower (HOPE) Nursing Success Project. Announcement of the grant comes just as the school learned it had earned reaccreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), having met the industry’s highest standards.

The HOPE Project will launch July 1. It seeks to increase the percentage of lower division nursing students from underrepresented, ethnic and minority backgrounds who progress to upper division nursing and to increase the graduation percentage of upper division nursing students from those backgrounds.

Lower division nursing students are those enrolled in their freshman or sophomore years taking general education and prerequisite courses. Upper division students are those who have been accepted into MBSON’s nursing program and are enrolled in nursing coursework. 

“This federal recognition of the terrific work being done in our School of Nursing shows that USC Upstate is on the move and constantly seeking resources and help to support our students,” said USC Upstate Provost David Schecter, Ph.D. “We thank the community for helping us get to this stage, where a major grant of this size can be earned and put into action immediately to have an instant impact.”

MBSON Dean Shirleatha Lee, Ph.D., RN, said 68 percent of USC Upstate students from underrepresented, ethnic and minority backgrounds do not progress from lower to upper division nursing, currently.

The grant award also comes as MBSON and institutions across the country are preparing to meet the challenges of a looming nursing shortage that the American Association of Colleges of Nursing predicts will be fueled by the retirement of Baby Boomer nurses, growth in the need for health care and the struggles of nursing schools to expand their capacity.

“Many minority and disadvantaged students in lower division nursing encounter obstacles, such as financial barriers, academic difficulties and a lack of guidance and support that hinder them from progressing to upper division nursing,” Lee said. “MBSON is uniquely positioned to address this challenge while simultaneously addressing the nationwide nursing shortage. Our aim is to retain and graduate more of these students who are able to provide high-quality, culturally aligned care to our community and beyond.”

Lee said MBSON will use evidence-based strategies to achieve its goals for the project. Those strategies include:

  • Development of a living learning community
  • Pre-immersion experiences
  • Expansion of holistic admissions
  • Scholarship support for students
  • Targeted education in rural health nursing
  • Tutoring and remediation services
  • Peer and community nurse mentorships
  • Recruitment and retention of diverse faculty
  • The creation of three new positions: retention specialist, upper division academic advisor and a nursing success coach

Lee added that she will work closely with MBSON Associate Dean and HOPE Project Co-Director Felicia Jenkins, Ph.D., RN, to build teams that will help the nursing school achieve the goals of the grant.

“This is an amazing opportunity for our students, the community and for nursing,” she said. “The grant writing and submission process required commitment and I want to thank everyone who helped. In particular, Dr. Pamela Steinke, vice provost and associate vice chancellor for Academic Affairs at USC Upstate, and Elaine Marshall, the university’s director of sponsored awards. It was a true team effort.”

CCNE granted MBSON full reaccreditation through 2031. CCNE accreditation is a voluntary, self-regulatory process that encourages rigorous self-assessment and supports continued growth and improvement of collegiate professional education and nursing residency and fellowship programs.

“I commend Dr. Lee and her team in earning this prestigious grant while undergoing a demanding reaccreditation process,” said Interim Chancellor Derham Cole. “The Mary Black School of Nursing continues to impact lives through education while improving healthcare for so many. This is yet another great example of how this university continues to provide transformational opportunities for residents of the Upstate region of South Carolina and beyond.”