As we grow as a campus, it is important to keep moving forward in all areas—not just physical growth. Though all students are anxiously anticipating the completion of our new Clinical Sciences building, several students are already working on ways that the building and programs within it can be more open to students of color, students with disabilities, international students, students who speak English as their second language, and many more diverse student groups who are considering attending our university.
The collective responses in this article are courtesy of student advocates Shelly Thao (junior), Mai Pa Vang (senior), Alex Lucier (senior), who want to inform students of proposals that they feel will improve the quality of the Nursing Department through diversity and equity initiatives.
Reporter: What brought this group of students together?
Student Advocates: This group of student advocates was formed in response to the high volumes of pre-nursing students whom have expressed their distress and frustration with the nursing department. We stand in unity when saying that the nursing department should act with equity in selecting students to be admitted into the nursing program. Students shouldn’t be punished for the University’s lack of investment in the nursing department.
“I got involved in this issue as MSUSA Diversity Specialist after two different students approached me with experiences they had in the department in which they were unfairly treated seemingly based on perceptions of their ability due to their race and international status,” said senior Alex Lucier. “I later heard that there was an inquiry being developed based on Asian American experiences and saw a problem. I ran for MSSA senator so that I would have a platform in which students could express their needs.”
R: What is the focus of your efforts?
SA: First, we would like all current and prospective students to be aware of what is occurring in the nursing department–especially if they aspire to be a nurse. Second, we would like for the department to acknowledge that equity needs to be implemented through policy changes and modifications to individual practices. Third, we want this movement to be a wake-up call to all university programs and departments about being equitable in their decision-making and policies.
R: How long has the group been generating the policies that will be discussed with the President/Provost on Friday, May 6?
SA: It has been three months now.
R: What has your (individual) experience in the Nursing Department been like?
“Every time I ask for moral support or guidance from my pre-nursing advisor, I feel shut down and unheard. Other students of color have felt the same way. I’ve had to resort to seeking guidance from other staff and faculty of color who I can actually relate to and connect with,” says junior Shelly Thao.
R: What has the response been like from other members of academia that this group has met with?
SA: The student advocates are disappointed that the Dean of Allied Health and Nursing and the Nursing Chair will not commit to all student demands that were proposed to create equity in the nursing department. We will turn to administrators, such as President Richard Davenport and Provost Marilyn Wells, who we feel strongly that can uphold the values and mission of our university.
R: What are the policies this group wants to see implemented at MNSU?
SA: We are seeking equity in the nursing department and intend for it to minimize the opportunity gap between diverse student groups. We are advocating for an increase in staff and faculty of color to ensure racial representation, creating policies to ensure that students of color, students with disabilities, international students, ESL students, and many more student groups are being admitted into the nursing program and not excluded, improving advising practices to be optimistic and inclusive of students rather than the opposite, and providing accommodations including but not limited to HESI time extensions to students who have English as their second language.
R: Are there any other schools/programs implementing similar policies?
SA: Both Nursing Program at St. Kate’s and Winona State University are accredited as well. Both programs
accept 40+ students. Both also have higher rates of minority students admitted into their nursing programs.
R: Please explain the importance of educating students/faculty on this issue (in other words, what don’t most people know or understand about this issue?)
SA: We all know that our university’s nursing program is competitive. That’s wonderful, but it does not mean that the university should only be admitting students with top grades. This doesn’t leave room for students from the following backgrounds to have a chance at being admitted due to societal barriers that they may face: students from low-income communities who aren’t always provided the best quality of K-12 education, students with disabilities, and students who have English as a second language. This is why we advocate for equity. We feel it’s important that these underrepresented students be given a fair chance at being nurses, and we will continue to advocate for them.
R: How will these suggestions improve the academic experience for students of color and promote diversity at MNSU?
SA: The Dean of Allied Health and Nursing agreed with us that students of color have a higher chance of coming from communities that do not provide the best quality of K-12 education. If the nursing department chose to be equitable in their decision-making, this could be an incentive for students of color and even international students, students with disabilities and students who have English as a second language to attend this university.
R: How does this group plan to move forward in the coming year?
SA: We would like to work closely with administrators in the nursing department upon them committing to being equitable. Until then, we will continue to speak to administrators such as President Richard Davenport and Provost Marilyn J. Wells because we believe they do the best in carrying out the mission and core values of this university. We are hopeful that the President and Provost will see that equity is needed in the nursing department.
R: How can students get involved in this effort?
SA: Students are welcome to attend the arranged student meeting on Friday, May 6, 2016 at 10 a.m. to discuss this issue with President Richard Davenport and Provost Marilyn J. Wells. We are still waiting for the location to be determined by the President’s Office. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or would like to be involved.