College of Nursing Honors Scholarship Recipients, Donors at Reception

By Chris Carmody

Patricia Cowan, Ph.D., RN, dean of the College of Nursing, thanked attendees for providing support at a time when the nationwide shortage of nurses has reached a crisis level.

“We have more than 5,000 unfilled nursing positions in Arkansas alone, attesting to the need that we educate and retain nurses in the workforce,” she said.

Cowan noted the innovative efforts that the College of Nursing has undertaken to address this need, including the creation of the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (A-BSN) program. The intensive program condenses into 15 months a course load that otherwise takes two to four years to complete.

Cowan said students in the A-BSN program sometimes spend 50 to 60 hours per week on course work, which often limits their ability to financially support themselves. Students in the traditional BSN and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Nurse Anesthesia programs encounter similar difficulties, she said.

“Scholarship support is critically important for these students, and I want to thank all of you for your dedication to their success,” she told the donors.

John Erck, vice chancellor of the UAMS Division of Institutional Advancement, said the nursing students of today will become a workforce that provides high-quality, innovative care to all who need it.

“Your investment is about more than simply reducing student debt through scholarships,” he said. “It is an investment in the health of your community. Your generosity has helped countless Arkansans lead better lives through the care provided by UAMS.”

Michael Manley, MNSc, RN, chief of staff to the UAMS chancellor, spoke about his nursing education and how scholarships helped him through his academic journey. He told the students that the value of a nursing career extends beyond the clinical, teaching or leadership roles that they might one day hold.

“This degree is going to give you more than you ever dreamed of,” he said.

The family of the late Freda McKissic Bush, M.D., addresses attendees at the scholarship reception.

The family of the late Freda McKissic Bush, M.D., addresses attendees at the scholarship reception.

The reception gave students the opportunity to meet with some of the donors who funded their scholarships. Attendees included the family of the late Freda McKissic Bush, M.D., a College of Nursing graduate and leader in women’s health and sexual health. After McKissic Bush passed away in January, her family honored her life and legacy by pledging $25,000 to create a scholarship in the College of Nursing.

Lee Bush, the husband of McKissic Bush, told the story of a time when his wife visited the benefactor of a scholarship she’d received. When McKissic Bush asked what she could do for that benefactor, the person told her to “pass it on.”

“So that’s what we’re doing today,” Bush said. “We’re passing it on.”

Victory Jackson, a student in the BSN program, is the inaugural recipient of the Dr. Freda McKissic Bush Scholarship. The first-generation college student said she aspires to one day run a doula or midwife business that supports Black women in motherhood.

“Since I was a young child, one thing my mother has always told me is that I was going to go to college,” she said. “I’m really grateful to have this opportunity.”

At a nearby table, BSN student Mili Olguin conversed with Richard and JoAnn Smith, the longtime College of Nursing faculty members who endowed a scholarship after they retired in 2008. The Richard Monroe Smith and JoAnn Hennessy Smith Endowed Scholarship is awarded each year to a BSN student who has served in the military or as a first responder.

“These are people who have already given to their country, so we’d like to give back to them,” Richard Smith said.

Scholarship recipients from the College of Nursing stand for a group photo.

Scholarship recipients from the College of Nursing stand for a group photo.

Hennessy Smith, a 1963 graduate of UAMS, said she was the first Arkansan to take part in the Navy Candidate Program, which provides financial assistance for students in BSN studies. She spent 26 years in active duty, traveling the world as a Navy nurse.

Olguin is an Army logistics specialist who enlisted in 2020 and later deployed to Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. She was born in Argentina and came to the United States at 2 years old, which left her ineligible for financial assistance until she became an American citizen.

“This is the first scholarship I’ve ever received,” she said. “Having this kind of financial aid means a lot to me.”