Parental support for first-generation college students

For incoming freshmen, attending college can feel like entering a maze. But for first-generation students, that maze can have added twists and turns, as they may not have a role model or rule book to follow when starting out as a first-year student.

In turn, while parents are proud of their college-bound daughter or son, they too are unfamiliar with the road they are about to travel. Yet, parents can still offer ample support for students just by showing up at family orientation events, asking questions from the program staff, and seeking out other parents to share information, guidance, and direction.

In the Rutgers College of Nursing Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) Program, parents are strongly encouraged to be a support base to their students. The EOF program has a Family Orientation Day where not only parents, but the entire family is invited to attend. Family Orientation Day provides an overview of what students are expected to do in the intensive six-week Summer Readiness Program. The College of Nursing has the only EOF program exclusively for nursing students in the state of New Jersey.

In 2011, parents were given a firsthand account from a parent whose daughter completed the summer program the previous year. She and her daughter spoke to the audience and answered questions. Additionally, the mother stayed through the entire day to privately speak to parents, many of whom indicated this was especially appreciated. Having a parent whose child went through the program offered them a sense of relief and comfort, making it easier to leave their daughter or son on campus.

At the end of the Summer Readiness Program, the students “graduate” to become members of the College of Nursing (Class of 2015). The students participate in a celebration entitled “Culture Kitchen,” where students and/or parents prepare a dish from their culture. It is truly a feast! Students represent many countries, and sampling the cultural cuisine is a cherished memory of the Summer Readiness Program. This past year’s program was especially gratifying because one parent insisted on being a part of the team in setting up the buffet table and working with the students and staff! It was important for her to become actively involved and not sit on the sidelines.

Perhaps the most moving part of the Culture Kitchen program is watching the students reflecting on their summer experience and seeing the proud faces of their parents. Students benefit from their parents’ support and involvement, and parents are encouraged to be a part of the students’ college experience. The EOF Program wants parents to feel welcomed; we understand the daunting process of wanting their child to be educated along with the difficulty of “letting go” so their daughter or son can progress into adulthood and become a distinguished nurse.

How Do You Solve the Minority Nursing Faculty Shortage? Put Them Online!

Although many nursing schools around the country have successfully increased the racial and ethnic diversity of their student populations, there is still a severe shortage of minority nursing faculty. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, less than 10% of the nation’s nursing educators are people of color. Even worse, many of these minority professors are rapidly nearing retirement age. How can nursing education meet the needs of a more culturally diverse generation of students when there just aren’t enough culturally diverse faculty to go around?

One school that has come up with an innovative solution to the minority faculty shortage is the School of Nursing at Thomas Edison State College in Trenton, N.J. The college has received a $600,000 grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to recruit and prepare minority nurse educators for online teaching. Training existing minority faculty to teach in distance learning programs will make these educators accessible to more students from all over the country, especially those in remote or rural areas. It will also help reduce the retirement brain drain by enabling minority faculty to extend their tenure in the profession, at least on a part-time basis, after they reach retirement age.

The school plans to recruit 45 minority nurse educators for the program during the next three years. Candidates must have an MSN degree or higher and will complete the college’s 32-week Certificate in Distance Education Program. Upon completion, they will teach one 12-week online nursing course at the college and will then be able to bring their distance education skills back to their own local institutions. The grant will also be used to create a database of minority distance educators, which will be made available to nursing schools throughout the country.

“The potential benefit of educating minority nurse faculty in online pedagogy is vast,” says Susan O’Brien, EdD, RN, dean of the School of Nursing at Thomas Edison State College. “We anticipate that the number of students and nursing schools impacted by this program will increase exponentially as the minority nurse educators recruited and educated through this grant begin to use and share their online skills.” If you’re an eligible nurse educator interested in participating in this program, contact the college at [email protected].

Minority Nurse Educators in Cyberspace: A Progress Report

Minority Nurse Educators in Cyberspace: A Progress Report

While many nursing schools around the country have successfully increased their enrollments as well as the racial and ethnic diversity of their student populations, there continues to be a severe shortage of nursing faculty–and especially minority faculty. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (2005), fewer than 10% of the nation’s nursing educators are people of color.

To address this urgent need for more culturally diverse nursing faculty, the School of Nursing at Thomas Edison State College, an online college based in Trenton, N.J., received a $600,000 grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to establish the Minority Nurse Educator program. Now entering its third year, the program provides experienced minority nursing faculty with the opportunity to enhance their skills and expand their expertise by preparing them for online teaching. With minority nursing educators in such short supply, training them to teach in distance learning programs will help make this scarce resource available to greater numbers of students than ever before.

Participants complete a 32-week Certificate in Distance Education Program (CDEP), then teach a 12-week online nursing course at Thomas Edison State College, under the guidance of an experienced mentor from the School of Nursing. Upon completion of the program, the minority faculty are ready to use their new distance teaching skills to introduce and expand online education programs at their own local institutions and across the nation.

Establishing the Need

In 2001-2002, Thomas Edison State College implemented its online RN-to-BSN program. Demographic data from the student population indicated that 25% of the students were racial and ethnic minorities. At that time, the program was open only to New Jersey residents. (It has been offered nationally since 2004.) The percentage of minority nurses in New Jersey at this time was 23%, which indicated that minority students were well represented at the School of Nursing.

Because of the high percentage of students of color in the program, we wanted to attract a similar percentage of minority faculty who could serve as mentors and role models. Our outreach efforts consisted of professional calls to minority nurses known to the dean, calls to several historically black nursing programs and requests for referrals from personal contacts. In the early days of the program, when the number of students enrolled was fewer than 250, these recruitment methods were sufficient. However, as enrollment grew, we found it increasingly difficult to maintain a similar minority mentor-to-student ratio using only these three methods.

Thomas Edison State College was already training nurse educators in online pedagogy, so it occurred to the dean that the same training could be offered to minority nursing faculty recruited as mentors for the online RN-to-BSN program. The idea for the grant was born. Once they became certified in distance education, the minority educators could be utilized not only by Thomas Edison State College but by any nursing program in the nation with online capability, regardless of geographical location. In addition, we felt that this could be a potential way to address the faculty retirement brain drain by enabling minority nurse educators to extend their tenure in the profession past the traditional retirement age.

To invite experienced minority nurse educators to participate in the CDEP, the School of Nursing used several recruiting strategies, including announcements in the nursing media, one-on-one recruitment at major national minority nursing association conferences, and advertisements in national and local newspapers and Web sites. In the first year, 19 educators were accepted into the program, with a 75% completion rate. For this first group of participants, the mentored online teaching experience is now in progress and will continue throughout this year.

A Growing Diversity

Summer 2007.Summer 2007

Of the 15 first-year participants who completed the CDEP, 67% are African American, 13% are Asian, 13% are Hispanic and 7% are American Indian (see Figure 1). Seventy-five percent of these nurse educators hold a master’s degree in nursing and 25% hold doctoral degrees (see Figure 2). The doctorally prepared candidates are from the African American and American Indian ethnic groups.

Geographically, our first-year grant participants come from many different parts of the country, including Georgia, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Missouri, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. The majority are from the East Coast (see Figure 3).

As the program became more widely known, we received many additional inquiries and applications. The second-year cohort of grant participants consists of 42% master’s-prepared nurse educators and 58% who are doctorally prepared. The geographic range has expanded as well, with new participants from Alabama, California, Indiana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Texas.

We are currently constructing a database of grant participants who have completed the CDEP through the Minority Nurse Educator program. Information from this database will be shared upon request with schools of nursing across the United States who are interested in utilizing experienced minority online educators to increase their faculty diversity.

To promote collaboration and yearly networking, the HRSA grant has also enabled Thomas Edison State College to establish an annual Distinguished Lectureship on Cultural Diversity, which is hosted by the School of Nursing every fall. The first annual event, held last October 11, included speakers such as Kem Louie, PhD, RN, FAAN, past president of the Asian American/Pacific Islander Nurses Association, and Hilda Richards, EdD, RN, FAAN, past president of the National Black Nurses Association. Information about the 2007 lectureship will be available in local and national nursing publications and on our Web site at

In summary, the Minority Nurse Educator program has proven to be successful. Nursing educators from across the country have demonstrated support for the concept of sharing minority nursing faculty in cyberspace to increase diversity in the nursing profession. The program has drawn highly talented minority nursing educators from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds and geographical locations, and the number of educators who have expressed interest in participating has increased. As of this writing, some of our grant participants are already applying what they have learned in the CDEP course, and the feedback from the grant participants in general has been very positive (see sidebar).

Experienced Educators Invited

The third-year cohort of grant participants in the Minority Nurse Educator program will begin their CDEP courses this summer and fall. If you are an experienced nurse educator of color who is interested in expanding your skills into online teaching and course development, Thomas Edison State College School of Nursing would like to hear from you.

We are looking for candidates with at least two years experience teaching in a baccalaureate nursing program or equivalent. A minimum of a master’s degree in nursing is required; a doctorate in an appropriate field is preferred. Please send a CV to [email protected].


Funding for the Minority Nurse Educator program and annual Distinguished Lectureship was made possible (in part) by grant award # DIIHP05199 from the Health Resources and Services Administration. The views expressed in written conference materials or publications and by speakers and moderators do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or the Health Resources and Services Administration, nor does mention of trade names, commercial practices or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. government.

The Face of Nursing Faculty 2001-2002: Still White and Female

Despite the efforts of many of the nation’s nursing schools to recruit more minorities and men into their faculty ranks over the past year, a new report from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) paints a disappointing picture of the continued lack of diversity in the world of nursing academia.

According to the recently published 2001-2002 edition of Salaries of Instructional and Administrative Nursing Faculty in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in Nursing, a survey of more than 500 schools nationwide, America’s full-time nursing faculty as a whole continues to be 90% Caucasian and 96% female, showing virtually no change from 2000-2001. Moreover, the racial homogeneity of nursing educators is evident across the board: 91.7% of administrative faculty and 90.2% of instructional faculty are white, respectively.

As for the racial and gender diversity of nursing school deans, the numbers are even worse. The survey’s companion volume, 2001-2002 Salaries of Deans in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in Nursing, reports that 92.6% of deans are white and 97.6% are women.

However, the two surveys do contain some good news when it comes to faculty salary trends. Mean salaries for full-time nursing faculty at nearly all ranks and degree levels rose modestly in the 2001-2002 academic year. Salaries ranged from a low of $24,545 for instructors without doctoral degrees teaching in private institutions to a high of $165,556 for doctorally prepared professors at public institutions.

The biggest salary increases were reported by nondoctorally prepared assistant professors (up 4.2%, to $45,531) and nondoctorally prepared associate professors (up 4%, to $49, 411). The only faculty members whose salaries decreased last year were nondoctorally prepared professors (down 5.5% to $59,029) and doctorally prepared instructors (a less steep drop of 1.5%, down to $43,865).

Deans’ salaries also increased slightly in the 2001-2002 calendar year. Mean salaries reached $99,945 for AACN-member deans (up 2.3% from the previous year) and $69,492 for nonmember deans (a 0.05% increase).

To order copies of the salary surveys, contact the AACN at (202) 463-6930 or visit the Web site

Recruiting and Retaining Minority Nursing Faculty

Recruiting and Retaining Minority Nursing Faculty

When Dr. Margaret Moss, RN, earned her doctorate in nursing science from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, she became part of a very small and select group: minority nurses who hold terminal degrees.

Moss is one of only 14 American Indian nurses in the entire country who hold doctoral degrees and the numbers for other minority groups aren’t much better. These statistics mean that nursing programs looking to increase the diversity of their faculty face keen competition for professors like Moss. With such a small pool of qualified candidates to draw from, nursing schools that hope to recruit minority and male faculty–and even more importantly, to retain them–must be active, committed and, above all, sincere.

According to the minority nursing professors interviewed for this article, the number one rule faculty search committees should keep in mind is: Hire for ability, not color or gender. In fact, they caution, focusing your search activities on ethnicity or gender alone will drive away minority applicants instead of attracting them.

“Show an interest in the person’s knowledge rather than just the color of their skin,” advises Moss, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota School of Nursing in Minneapolis. She stresses the importance of being familiar with the candidate’s accomplishments, experience and expertise and being able to discuss them intelligently. If a candidate gets the impression that you only want him or her because of race or gender, don’t expect a “yes” to your offer.

“People can see right through that and they won’t accept it,” Moss says.

Kevin Mallinson, RN, PhD, AACRN, an assistant professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., agrees. “If a school wants to attract male faculty members, for me that would mean they wouldn’t make an issue out of the fact that I’m male,” he argues. “I don’t want a search committee saying, ‘we really want a man here.’”

Mallinson joined the faculty at Georgetown in August 2003. The fact that he was a man was not an issue in the recruiting process, he says. But that hasn’t always been the case. He recalls sitting in on a meeting at another nursing school where the program’s recruiting success was measured solely on the number of men and people of color who were hired as faculty members.

Instead of demonstrating that the institution values diversity, comments like that undervalue the contributions of the minority faculty recruited, Mallinson believes. “It made us feel as though we weren’t recruited because we were great researchers or because of our teaching background,” he says. “We were only recruited for our color or gender.”

The Comfort Factor

While you don’t want to make candidates feel that having X number of minority or male professors is of paramount importance to your program, you do want them to feel comfortable about joining your faculty. For many minority professors, that means not being one-of-a-kind.

“In all the nursing programs I had been in as a professor or a student, I had never encountered an American Indian faculty member,” Moss recalls. The fact that the University of Minnesota had two other Native nurses on the faculty drew her to the campus.

Even though she herself is Caucasian, Sandra Edwardson, RN, PhD, dean of the University of Minnesota School of Nursing, realizes the importance of helping new minority faculty members establish cultural connections so that they don’t feel like they’re alone in a crowd. “I know it’s a pretty lonely existence to be the only person of your race at a school,” she explains.


Suggestions from the NLN

The National League for Nursing’s Task Group on Recruitment and Retention of Students has been charged with developing guidelines for recruiting and maintaining a diverse student population in nursing. While the Task Group is not yet ready to release formal guidelines, Chief Program Officer Theresa M. Valiga, RN, EdD, FAAN, notes that one key factor in attracting more minority and male students to nursing schools is the presence of a diverse faculty population. She offers these suggestions for recruiting and retaining minority nursing faculty:

1. Make sure there is a commitment on the part of the university to provide adequate support (time, money, staff) for the recruitment process.

2. Develop a recruitment communications package containing information about the university’s minority community, including statistics on the number of minority students and information about area housing, churches and schools.

3. Develop and include information on employment opportunities for spouses.

4. Share information and schedules for local minority cultural events and festivals that would be of interest to the targeted minority population(s).

5. Form an advisory board composed of members of the minority groups being recruited.

6. Establish an environment of open communication among administrators and other faculty. A forum in which minority faculty can interact with each other can also provide an avenue of acceptance.

7. Provide mentors, both internal and external, for recruited minority faculty members.

8. Help faculty and staff recognize and embrace cultural differences.

At her program, Edwardson encourages faculty search committees to be creative in linking minority candidates to the community off-campus. “Here in Minnesota, we have an uphill battle in trying to recruit faculty of color, particularly if they’re coming from warm southern climates,” she says. “In addition to linking them with individuals on campus, we try to make sure they have some social time during the recruiting process to spend with representatives of the local minority community of which they may become a part. That way, they understand what it’s like to live in this northern, homogeneous city. That’s a strategy that has worked fairly well for us.”

Edwardson also encourages other deans at the university to make plans that will help new minority faculty members connect easily with other people of their race, ethnicity or gender on campus, regardless of what academic department they’re affiliated with.

“Another strategy to deal with the potential isolation is to bring together minority students and faculty with other people of color here in the academic health center and even the university at large,” she notes. “They may not be in the same discipline, but they can still share their problems and successes. It’s a good way for mentoring to happen.”

Target Your Marketing Plan

Diane Oates, president of Academic Diversity Search, Inc., a Webster, N.Y.-based firm that specializes in connecting minority candidates with academic institutions, has one word of advice for majority nursing schools that hope to attract minority faculty members: talk. Talk to minority nursing associations often. Talk about your program, your current faculty and their accomplishments, and your plans for the future.

“The most important thing that universities can do is make sure they are talking to the audiences they want to reach,” she advises. “You’ve got to work to get the word out to the right audience.”

That means advertising in journals and publications that are read by minority nursing faculty and graduate students, Oates says. It also means getting out of your office and seizing opportunities to meet potential candidates face-to-face at nursing conferences and meetings.

The search for qualified minority faculty members should go on even when you don’t have an open position, she adds. “You’ve got to be looking constantly. Talk to everybody you can about your program.”

Be honest if you’re not currently looking for faculty, but be open to planting seeds of interest that could pay off in the future. The young minority or male master’s candidate you meet at next weekend’s conference could be the country’s leading pediatric nursing researcher 10 years from now.

Fill your Rolodex with the names of potential candidates and keep in contact with those you meet. It may be just passing along an article of interest or sharing news about a grant opportunity. When the time comes for you to fill a position, tap into that network and let your contacts of all races know about an opening.

As a founder of the Association of Black Nursing Faculty, Sallie Tucker-Allen, RN, PhD, FAAN, has seen this networking approach work many times in that organization. “If positions are open, we spread the word [to our members],” she says. That’s advertising you can’t buy.

Improving Your Image

Nursing is a small world, and news–both good and bad–travels quickly. If your attempts to attract a more diverse faculty through networking and advertising aren’t working, perhaps your institution has a bad reputation for not being welcoming to minority faculty in the past. Recruiting minority and male faculty will be particularly difficult if the school has had an all-white or all-female teaching force for years, or if it’s perceived as being too large and impersonal.

Tucker-Allen, who is director of the Methodist School of Nursing in Peoria, Ill., and former assistant dean of Chicago State University’s nursing program, says minority professors will avoid any college or university perceived as operating with a “revolving door,” an unwritten but still enforced policy at some schools.

“They bring you in, but they make no effort to support you and have no intention of tenuring you,” she explains. “In six years, you’re gone and someone else comes on board. On the books, the program has always had a minority faculty member.”

Once a program has gained such a reputation, attracting minority faculty can be difficult, even if the school is now making an effort to correct the situation by shedding its old policies and embracing diversity. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

“There has to be a visible commitment starting at the top,” Tucker-Allen emphasizes. “It must start with a commitment from the dean and the president of the university because they control the funds and have to be willing to invest the money needed.”

Oates adds that this commitment to faculty diversity must not only run up the school’s chain of command but also run down it. Faculty members at all levels must buy into the diversity initiative and be willing to welcome, support, mentor and learn from new faculty members that happen to be of a different race or gender.

“People that report to the dean must understand how important diversity is,” she says. “They need to know why diversity is what’s best for the university and the students. You have to show them how it will make the program stronger.”

One way to do that, says Tucker-Allen, is to keep the diversity recruiting process open to everyone. Get both majority and minority faculty members and administrators actively involved in your efforts.

Once you’ve sold your diversity initiative inside your institution, go to great lengths to spread the word off-campus to the national nursing community. “Be prepared to tell minority nurses in academia what your program has to offer them and what sets you apart from their perspective,” Oates says.

If you’re not sure what that perspective is, ask. If necessary, bring in a consultant, preferably someone who is a member of the targeted minority group. According to Tucker-Allen, one mistake too many nursing schools make is bringing in outside consultants that do not represent minority populations.

“White faculty members and white consultants will not give you the solution,” she believes. “They are not going to say the same things that a black or Hispanic consultant would say.”

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Some minority nursing educators who have been on both sides of the academic hiring process think nursing schools might do better to abandon all the talk in favor of some high-profile action.

“If you’re serious [about attracting minority faculty], look at salaries, especially if you want to lure faculty members from other schools,” says Tucker-Allen. “Most black nursing faculty have traditionally taught at historically black colleges and they are probably tenured. They’re not going to leave that unless there’s a really good carrot at the end of your stick.”

Money may be the carrot of choice for many candidates, but it’s not the only one. Tucker-Allen suggests that nursing programs offer incentives such as the opportunity to do post-doctoral work and receive funding for research projects. “You have to look at the [candidate] pool and see what people really want,” she stresses. “Even though someone may have tenure in their current position, the person may be amenable to change if the right conditions are there.”

Established minority faculty members can also be lured away by nursing schools that have demonstrated a strong and sincere interest in minority health issues.

“In general, [minority] faculty researchers are interested in health disparity issues,” Moss explains. “Programs that target those issues are attractive.” One of the deciding factors in her decision to join the University of Minnesota, which has a Center for Nursing Research on Elders, was knowing that her own area of research interest–health care for American Indian elders–would be able to expand and be supported there.

Since such research projects are long-term and require financial support, a school’s encouragement of this type of faculty research conveys that the program is serious about eliminating health disparities and serving minority communities. It also helps assure newly hired minority faculty members that their expertise will be highly valued. Universities that fail to fully utilize the specialized knowledge and interests of minority faculty risk losing them.

But at more and more schools, the quest for a diverse nursing faculty that reflects the increased racial, cultural and gender diversity of the student population is creating unprecedented opportunities for minority educators interested in shaping the future of the next generation of nurses. As Mallinson says, “When it comes to being a faculty member and being a male, I could go anywhere. The world is open to me and that’s a wonderful feeling.”