UAMS Welcomes First Cohort of Pre-Nursing Summer Scholars Program

By Chris Carmody

The program, a partnership between the UAMS College of Nursing and the Division for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DDEI), is part of DDEI’s Health Career University. The Health Career University initiative encompasses a variety of programs that serve high school and undergraduate students from underrepresented groups, providing exposure to health careers and advice on how to get into academic institutions like UAMS. 

The Pre-Nursing Summer Scholars program focused primarily on test preparation. Participants learned about study and testing strategies that would help them on the Assessment Technologies Institute’s Test of Essential Academic Skills, an entrance examination required for prospective Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) students at UAMS.  

Those strategies could also improve students’ success on standardized exams that they would have to take if they were accepted into UAMS’ traditional or accelerated BSN programs, said Ava Coleman, M.S., assistant director of student enrollment in the College of Nursing.

Members of the inaugural cohort of the Pre-Nursing Summer Scholars program stand with organizers and instructors from UAMS.

Members of the inaugural cohort of the Pre-Nursing Summer Scholars program stand with organizers and instructors from UAMS.

“Most students have not had to take a standardized test since they left high school, so these prep courses allow them to refresh and recharge,” she said. 

The students received instruction from faculty members including Patricia Cowan, Ph.D., RN, dean of the College of Nursing; Teresa Whited, DNP, RN, associate dean of academic programs; Fermin Renteria, DNP, APRN, director of the BSN program; and Larronda Rainey, DNP, RN, a clinical assistant professor. 

Participants in the Pre-Nursing Summer Scholars program also had a chance to see the types of training experiences offered at UAMS. The students spent time in the College of Nursing’s Innovative Practical Simulation Center, where they learned about blood-draw techniques and listened to a manikin that imitates the sounds of an infant’s breathing.  

At a closing ceremony for the three-day program, Cowan highlighted some of the learning opportunities available through the College of Nursing both in the classroom and in clinical settings. She urged the students to consider applying to UAMS, noting that the faculty is dedicated to helping them find success in their studies and in their careers. 

“This is not a program where we see a lot of people who aren’t academically successful,” she said. “When you get your education at UAMS, you are well-prepared to take care of patients anywhere.” 

Renisha Ward, M.Ed., director of outreach programs for DDEI, congratulated the students on taking a first step toward a career in health care.  

“Please know that you are needed,” she said. “You have a place at UAMS, and we want to support and encourage you along your path. I hope the time you spent here propels you toward your goals.” 

Steffen Lewis, DNPc, RN, presented each student with a Nightingale lamp —  a symbol that represents the light of knowledge, hope and care that nurses bring to their patients. Lewis also gave them an opportunity to describe how the Pre-Nursing Summer Scholars program affected their career aspirations.  

Kennedy Abanihe, a rising sophomore at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, said a practice exam handed out on the first day gave him an early indication of how rigorous the program would be. He expressed gratitude for the opportunities to network with faculty members, saying he could picture himself being among them as a colleague someday. 

“I feel like I got so much of what I will need for my career within these three days,” he said.  

Lyric Williams, a rising sophomore at the University of Central Arkansas, praised the program for helping students representing a wide variety of races and backgrounds. The first-generation collegian cited the importance of representation and of setting a good example for others who follow in her footsteps. 

“Nursing is something I’ve always been passionate about, especially because there aren’t a lot of nurses who look like me,” she said. 

Summer Scott, a rising sophomore at Southern Arkansas University Tech, said the program had introduced her to new possibilities in the nursing field. 

“I appreciate all the opportunities you’ve given us this week,” she said. “This program has started a new fire in my heart, and I’ll continue to pursue a career in nursing.” 

Staff and faculty members encouraged the students to stay in contact in the months and years ahead, offering guidance as they consider the next phase in their academic journeys. Ward said the program was as inspiring for DDEI and the College of Nursing as it was for the participants, and she’s looking forward to hosting and expanding it next year. 

“We are so excited that we’re able to play a small part as these students take their next steps in life,” she said.