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Bell Tower Magazine | Health Education and Human Sciences | BT-CurrentOctober 20, 2022

$9.9 Million Gift Will Double Nursing Program

Addressing a critical shortage of health-care providers, $9.9 million of the historic Windgate gift will be dedicated to nearly doubling the UAFS Nursing program.

“This gift has created a new beginning for Nursing at UAFS, allowing us to address one of the greatest challenges of our lifetime, access to health care, by educating and training the registered nurses our community and our region so desperately need,” said Dr. Paula Julian, Executive Director of the UAFS Carolyn McKelvey Moore School of Nursing. 

An initial investment of close to $4 million will allow the university to hire 27 additional faculty immediately while expanding and equipping simulation labs. Phase 1 should serve about 200 more students annually in the Bachelor of Science of Nursing (BSN) programs, which include traditional and accelerated options. 

“We have a distinctive nursing program known across the state as offering a truly exceptional education,” said UAFS Chancellor Dr. Terisa Riley. “The brightest, most dedicated nursing students in the region choose UAFS because they know they’re going to get the best education. 

“But like other universities, we have difficulty recruiting and retaining exceptional faculty members. Nationally, nursing faculty have been drawn away from academia by high salaries at hospitals and a call to do the important work of caring for patients. So the financial means to recruit and retain devoted educators is critical.

“This is a gift not just to the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith. It reaches beyond the campus to absolutely transform the area.”

With the second phase of the investment, the university proposes adding two degrees, an Associate Degree of Nursing (AND) and an RN-to-BSN pathway. These flexible degree plans can accommodate the diverse nature of students and needs in the River Valley. Area hospitals are eager to recruit nurses with these degrees. 

In the two phases, the university will hire 40 additional faculty members and graduate many as 300 additional nurses a year.