In one of the largest grants it has received in the past half-decade, Jacksonville University will receive a federal grant of $870,000 to recruit hundreds more student veterans into its new College of Health Sciences and help them excel as they pursue bachelor’s degrees in nursing.
The award, announced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is part of the Veterans’ Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing Program (VBSN) of HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration.
“The Veterans’ Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program recognizes the valuable skills and experience of our veterans, while addressing the nation’s nursing workforce needs,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a news release announcing the grants. “The education and training they receive helps qualify them for civilian nursing positions, while expanding Americans’ access to high-quality care.”
Only nine institutions nationwide were awarded grants as part of the highly competitive project.
“This funding is going to help us tremendously to recruit and better support our military students as they work on their BSNs, and to educate highly qualified medical personnel for our community,” said Project Director Lynnette Kennison, JU Associate Professor of Nursing. “It provides more options for us to help them succeed as they continue their educations.”
With the additional money, to be spread over four years, more personnel will be hired at JU to recruit and assist veterans in the nursing program, provide them additional career track options and prepare them for practice in the local community.
In the first year alone, projections are for 31 additional veterans to be added to Nursing Track 1 (students with little or no medical background), 25 more to Track 2 (those with an associate degree in nursing) and 34 more to Track 3 (online students with an associate degree in nursing).
Once enrolled, the veterans will receive assistance, such as tutoring in writing, math and nursing; program, career and mental health counseling; focus and support group help; linkages with veteran service organizations and community health systems; and even medical monitoring such as biofeedback to help them with their heart rates and stress levels.
The additional academic and social supports are critical to the success of the veterans in the program, federal officials said.
Kennison, a psychiatric nurse practitioner and 30-year military veteran herself, agreed that the extra support will enable many more student veterans to succeed in the nursing program.
“Some of our military veterans have special issues and challenges, sometimes traumatic physical and mental injuries that can make them feel detached, and these must be addressed as they acclimate back to civilian life and education,” she said. “The support groups alone will be a huge benefit to them, as they see they are not alone and can identify with others of similar background.”
Kennison said the process of obtaining the grant helped her become better acquainted with other members of the College of Health Sciences – advisory board members, staff, administration, other faculty – who offered guidance and helped with the request.
“You have to look beyond your immediate teaching goals, and this really expands your horizons,” she said. “No one has to work on a grant alone. It requires teamwork, and it reenergizes you as a faculty member and gives you a chance to follow your passions and interests. For me, this is all about helping the student veterans.”
Grant money has practical benefits for Jacksonville University as well, said Renee Rossi, JU Director of Grant Development: External funding can raise the reputation and overall esteem of the University. As JU pursues additional grant competitions, it will increase its ability to offer dynamic research opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students. The pursuit of innovation and research also helps faculty enhance their upward career mobility and tenure opportunities.
“We are committed to assisting faculty with their scholarly pursuits by helping them secure funding for research and new programming, and with JU President [Tim] Cost’s support, we are moving toward developing the processes needed to fully support faculty in both the pre-award and post-award phases of a project.”
Rossi also noted that options are being investigated to further incentivize JU faculty to pursue grant funding. One is to establish “research accounts” for funded faculty members, and return a portion of the recovered indirect costs (also referred to as overhead) to the account. Faculty could then use the funds to purchase new equipment, hire students, or as seed money for new research endeavors.
“It would give them a little bit of additional funding to use to enhance their research initiative or program, and is a great incentive for the University overall to pursue more research and program funding,” Rossi said.
In addition, many funding sources, especially the federal agencies, allow for and even expect the cost of adjunct faculty to be included in a proposal. The adjunct personnel can relieve some of the class loads, and enable faculty to work on their funded project and pursue their passions, she said.
Helping the CHS faculty with their writing efforts is a three-year grant from the Riverside Hospital Foundation that underwrites a majority of a full-time grant writer’s salary, a position dedicated to the development of the CHS and its programs. The Riverside Hospital Foundation was a catalyst in helping JU grow its existing health care programming to form the College of Health Sciences. Its vision to fund the dedicated grant writer position enabled the CHS to pursue timely funding opportunities.
For more information on the JU College of Health Sciences, visit http://www.ju.edu/cohs.