Bronson School of Nursing receives $2 million grant to improve nursing workforce diversity

Dr. Mary Ann Stark

Dr. Mary Ann Stark, professor in the WMU Bronson School of Nursing (BSON), leads a team that has been awarded a four year, $2 million Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Nursing Workforce Diversity Grant. 

This grant allows BSON to establish a new program, Empowering Nursing Students for Success (Empower Success), to recruit, retain and graduate more students from underrepresented groups and educationally and financially disadvantaged populations.

“A diverse nursing workforce is beneficial to the health of our community and society,” said Dr. Stark. “It is something that health care organizations have been paying attention to for some time. Nursing programs and other higher education institutions have been making great strides in recent years to support our students and improve workforce diversity.”

In 2015, faculty in the Bronson School of Nursing and the CHHS Office of Student Engagement and Success developed a program to support students from underrepresented groups. They wrote and received a $5000 grant from the WMU Office of Faculty Development, with which they assembled a group of students and faculty to identify common academic and personal issues that impede success. 

Older students were hired as Navigators to help the student scholars achieve success.  All of the students in the program passed and progressed in the nursing program. This program was called the Marie Gates Scholars Program in honor of our previous BSON director who valued and supported diversity in nursing.

“The success of that 2015 grant opened the door for us to try to expand the program,” said Kim Searing, coordinator of the Empower Success program. “We decided to look beyond our current students to find, recruit and retain students throughout this region.”

Dr. Stark and Searing, with support from Dr. Yvonne Ford, Mary Stahl, Joanne DeWit and Andy Brown from CHHS student success, wrote the HRSA grant. The award allows BSON to provide scholarships and stipends totaling $225,000 per year, academic and peer support, and develop a holistic admissions process to recruit, retain and graduate more nurses from underrepresented groups and educationally and financially disadvantaged populations.

This grant helps address a critical overall nursing shortage. More specifically, it address the shortage of nurses from underrepresented groups. Producing highly qualified nurses from these groups will improve the quality of healthcare, while improving the overall diversity of the nursing work force.