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ASU, EAC partnership sees largest graduating BSN cohort to date

This spring more than 400 College of Nursing and Health Innovation students are eligible to graduate, completing years’ worth of hard work and taking the next step in their lives and careers.

Among them is a cohort of 14 standout Bachelor of Science in Nursing graduates who completed their degrees on a separate campus in a rural part of the state, thanks to a concurrent enrollment partnership with Eastern Arizona College.

It's a doable program that allows nursing students to pursue their bachelor’s degree at the same time as their associate degree from EAC,” Jesse Tapia said.

Tapia knows the program in and out; he’s one of the students graduating from it.

Each semester he took a couple of ASU courses on top of his EAC courses. It was not an easy path, especially because he was also balancing work and family.

In fact, Tapia said if it weren’t for the convenience and perhaps most importantly the reduced tuition, he may not have pursued the program at all.

“I’m able to graduate without needing student loans and I now have my bachelor’s degree in nursing which helps with job security and promotions!”

First announced in 2011, the partnership allows students who complete their associate degree at Eastern Arizona College to pursue a handful of Arizona State University bachelor’s degrees - like the BSN - through classes offered in-person on EAC’s campus in the town of Thatcher, Arizona.

“Many of them really would have a difficult time leaving this community to pursue a BSN because this is where their home is, it’s where their support system is and they want to stay here in this community,” said Carolyn Jo McCormies, nursing director and division chair at Eastern Arizona College.

Tapia said having ASU adjunct faculty on campus and being able to interact with them and his fellow classmates on a regular basis was key to his success.

“I like being able to meet my instructor and being able to ask questions in class. While a lot of the class work was done online, we were able to meet in person, share ideas and experiences and help each other out,” he said.

Fellow BSN concurrent enrollment program graduate Samantha Jensen echoed that sentiment saying it was absolutely a perk to have that face-to-face opportunity with instructors.

She also really enjoyed the smaller class sizes.

“I believe I was able to get a more tailored education by staying in the town of Thatcher,” Jensen said.

Students are not the only ones reaping the rewards of this relationship. Patients in rural communities are benefitting too.

“By bringing the ASU education to students at EAC, we ensure they have the opportunity to reach a higher level of education that they can use to deliver excellent nursing care within their own communities,” Heidi Sanborn said.

Sanborn is the interim director of the RN-BSN and Concurrent Enrollment Program and an assistant clinical professor for the College of Nursing and Health Innovation. She works with McCormies and the CONHI Faculty on the Thatcher campus.

This partnership, Sanborn says is a solid example of CONHI’s mission in action, which is to come up with innovative solutions to optimize the health and well being of all our communities.

“This program ensures that ASU Bachelor of Science in Nursing graduates stay right where they are needed, applying the knowledge gained in our program to communities far outside the reach of our downtown campus,” she said.

For the foreseeable future that’s the plan for several of these grads including Jensen, who will remain in the Eastern Arizona town.

While she did not grow up in Thatcher, she said she was raised in a community similar to it and because of that, her desire is to improve the health of those in rural communities.

Now that she’s getting her BSN Jensen said she definitely feels more prepared to enter the workforce.

“There were topics I learned throughout my bachelor courses that were not covered as deeply in my nursing program. I have a greater understanding of the health needs of my community and what my role is as a nurse in public health," she said.

As for Tapia, he says if you’re on the fence about the program like he was at first, do yourself a favor and really look into it.

“It’s an amazing program that gives a small town college big opportunities to grow.”