Ohio University's first class of Bachelor of Science in Nursing recipients.

Photographer: Jody Grenert

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Ohio University graduates its first Bachelor of Science in Nursing class

Among the nearly 3,300 undergraduates that Ohio University sent out into the world this month was a group of 93 pioneers from the School of Nursing.

The group is OHIO’s first class of Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) graduates, a program that broke ground in 2009 as southeast Ohio’s first four-year nursing degree. Courses for the BSN, unlike OHIO’s other nursing programs, took place entirely on the university’s main campus in Athens.

The university’s BSN program was created to increase access to a career that traditionally attracts first-generation college students in Appalachia, a region whose students prefer to remain near family and community.

“The faculty and staff of the school are very proud of everything this first class has accomplished,” said Debby Henderson, director of OHIO’s School of Nursing. “As the inaugural class, they have set the tone for a very positive future for the BSN program in Athens.”

Much has changed in the School of Nursing since the first BSN seekers enrolled four years ago. Nursing, part of the College of Health Sciences and Professions, is home to the university’s fastest-growing academic programs. This year, more than 7,000 students were enrolled in the school’s programs, which take place both online and at OHIO’s campuses in Athens, Zanesville, Chillicothe and Ironton. The school also offers a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and a BSN completion degree that enables working nurses with a two-year degree to obtain a BSN.

Helping to fuel the school’s growth and impact were several state and federal grants. The largest, a $5 million outlay from the U.S. Department of Labor, provides scholarships for tuition and administrative costs for more than 200 qualified students as part of an initiative to retrain the long-term unemployed.

Even the BSN program itself has evolved in four short years: Beginning in the fall, students will be able to take BSN courses at Ohio University’s regional campuses.

“There continues to be a strong need for nurses with bachelor’s preparation in the workforce,” Henderson said, adding that the school is exploring a Doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP) to go along with its BSN and MSN offerings. “Our healthcare system will benefit from having many more advanced-practice nurses with master’s and doctoral degrees.”

Jody Grenert is the communication director for Ohio University’s College of Health Sciences and Professions.