Fall semester full of firsts

Graphic by Valerie De La O.

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As Dixie State University continues to evolve, more and more programs and degrees are becoming available to students.

Michael Lacourse, provost and vice president of academic affairs, said: “There were three things that happened [on the first day of the new semester], three firsts. Our first graduation class was taught this morning, the first engineering program started, and then the Bachelor of Science in Nursing launched its first cohort of students.”

DSU is growing in a multitude of areas including academic programs and infrastructure, he said, and the institution is in a period of “significant growth and exploration.”

First graduate classes

Pamela Cantrell, the director of curriculum and graduate studies, was hired last year and was set to help Nate Staheli, department chair of accounting, by “shepherding [the Master of Accountancy proposal] through the approval process.”

Cantrell said all of the tireless work paid off when the board of trustees approved the program.

“It was just the most exciting thing to think that this was going to be our very first graduate program, that we will now be a graduate institution,” Cantrell said.

She said the process for the first master’s degree to become approved and accredited does not only affect the proposal but also the policies. Cantrell was tasked with writing the policies for the graduate level, and a lot of the policies stemmed from the need to establish processes and systems on campus, she said. Cantrell said other policies will cover graduate assistantships that will allow graduate students to assist or teach undergraduate courses.

“In the first place, the policies have to establish a new entity on campus, which was the Office of Graduate Studies,” Cantrell said. “We had to set out all of the governance for how that was going to happen.”

Cantrell said she remembers the day when all of the hard work paid off. The day the board of trustees was set to review the proposal, a group had “arranged quite a celebration” that would be visible from the Zion Room in the Jeffrey R. Holland Centennial Commons building, she said.

“They released lots of balloons and the balloons just came up and we looked out the windows and saw those balloons coming up, so it was quite a celebratory moment,” Cantrell said. “Everyone stood up and just clapped; some of us cried. It was just really a moment.”

Cantrell also said there are four graduate degrees currently in development including Master of Technical Writing and Digital Rhetoric, Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy, Master of Applied Kinesiology, and Master of Athletic Training. 

First BSN Nursing cohort

Along with the first graduate class, the first Bachelor of Science in Nursing cohort began classes in the Russell C. Taylor Health Science building, and 48 students were accepted into the cohort. Dean Brereton, assistant professor of nursing, said he was hired on to aid in the expansion of the program. 

Brereton works with a lot of the clinical aspects of the nursing program, he said, and he does not currently teach any of the theory classes. Most of his work is done within the simulation lab; students use high-fidelity mannequins and equipment in the simulation lab to create a low-stress, low-consequence environment with the feel of a real hospital room, he said.

“It’s a very safe type [of] environment for [students] to learn, and include learning, making mistakes [and] learning some more,” Brereton said.

He said the first day of classes was a mixture of excitement and nerves as students are the first to go through the program.

“[These students] are the first to have the opportunity to start and complete with a bachelor’s degree, which hasn’t been available to them,” Brereton said. “But I think there is a little nervousness with that because no one has been through that before, so no one can share with them what to expect; we don’t even know what to expect.”

One of the first 48 students, Jessica Romo, a junior nursing major from Fontana, California, said on the first day of school students were awestruck and nervous. Romo said after being fitted for their scrubs Lacourse spoke to the students about being a part of the three firsts to happen at DSU and reminded the students to be proud of their part in DSU’s history, she said.

Romo said the application process starts with finishing general education courses, passing selected courses such as pathophysiology and nutrition, having a certified nursing assistant certificate and possibly choosing to work as a CNA, and completing a video interview, among other requirements.

As time has progressed, Brereton said, resident nurses are expected to have higher degrees, and the opening of the BSN allows nursing students to seamlessly transition from one degree to another and will aid students as they continue on in their academic and professional careers.

Romo said after earning her bachelor’s she will go on to finish her master’s and maybe her doctorate degrees to become a resident nurse and help children and families before becoming an educator.

“It’s amazing to think, like how awesome would it be to be a nurse and then to educate future nurses?” Romo said. “So that maybe, hopefully, is in my future.”

The mechanical engineering program, and first engineering program at DSU, also kicked off its classes on the first day of the fall 2018 semester. 

“I think the future is incredibly bright,” Lacourse said. “A lot of work was done last year by a lot of faculty, and the impact of that work will be able to be felt this year and beyond.”