University of St. Thomas to Open Nursing School Focused on Student Diversity, Health Equity

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The University of St. Thomas (UST) recently announced the creation of a nursing school dedicated to teaching cultural awareness, recruiting underrepresented students, and reducing health inequity in underserved communities. The school will be housed within UST’s Morrison Family College of Health and will offer bachelor’s and master’s programs. 

Developing everything from the ground up provides a unique opportunity to incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion principles into the culture, curricula, and admissions process from the start, according to the university. Officials are aiming to have students of color, rural students, and first-generation learners make up at least 30 percent of the inaugural class. 

“When we have nurses out there that look like the communities they’re caring for, the outcomes are actually better for patients,” Martha Scheckel, the school’s founding director, told the StarTribune. 

To attract underrepresented students, the college has established an admissions process that values experiences and attributes more than grades. While admissions counselors still prefer to see applicants meet a 3.0 GPA, they will consider students with lower grades depending on their backgrounds.

Curricula will continuously build students’ cultural competency and awareness by challenging them to understand different perspectives. The school is also developing partnerships with local organizations such as the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District and the St. Paul Public Library so that students have opportunities to provide care for homeless patients and teach underserved children and families about health education. MayKao Hang, dean of Morrison Family College of Health, told the StarTribune that the school will take “a street-level approach” to clinical education. 

Scheckel and Hang say that those experiences will allow nursing students to have a deeper understanding of the social and economic determinants of health, which in turn will help reduce disparities in underrepresented communities.

This article was published in our January/February 2022 issue.