Tuesday, May 3, 2005
Scholarships help students, university and community By Tom Schram, contributing writer
An innovative, urban-focused program started last year by Oakland University’s School of Nursing is treating the metro Detroit area’s nursing shortage with a couple of doses of just the right medicine: It’s helping to keep some of the county’s brightest students near home and promoting on-campus diversity while doing it.
With funds provided by Beaumont Hospital, three Pontiac high school students received $2,000 each this past fall to attend OU. They will receive $2,000 each academic year toward a bachelor’s of science in nursing and upon graduation will be offered employment at Beaumont.
“Beaumont regularly gives scholarships to enrolled students,” said Linda Thompson Adams, dean of the School of Nursing. “We wanted to use this as an opportunity to recruit students directly from urban areas in Oakland County.”
The university made some smart choices. The three scholarship winners — Angela Moody, Vanessa Page and Meghan Ferdon — graduated at the top of their class at Pontiac Central High School last spring. All three are engaging, optimistic and bright. And indicative of their excellent high school academic records, all take their studies very seriously. Scholarship winners must retain a 3.2 grade point average to stay in the program, which is not an easy task with the nursing school’s rigorous academic schedule.
Making the Grades
This past year, Moody and Page shared a residence hall room in Vandenberg Hall and a real commitment to hit the books. Much of their time was spent in the lounge or in their room, studying for next day’s class.
“I feel like I’m challenged here. That’s one of the reasons I knew Oakland was for me,” said Moody, who was salutatorian of her high school class.
For Page, who was class president and finished fourth in her high school class with a 3.7 GPA, the expectations of Oakland’s very demanding nursing curriculum took her a little bit by surprise.
“It’s been hard for me,” she said. “I know I have to study. I thought that this was going to be a breeze, so I had a rude awakening during the first semester. But, I know my studies are going to get me where I want to go.”
Both also want to work with the young when they finish their nursing studies.
“At first, I wanted to be a teacher, but I don’t think I have enough patience, and I really want to help children,” Moody said. “I’ve decided that I want to be a pediatric nurse.”
Page is interested in helping the tiniest of patients.
“I think I want to do post-natal nursing,” she said. “I took a trip to Providence Hospital and I shadowed a post-natal nurse for a day. I really like the babies. I want to work with the babies and their mothers.”
Ferdon, valedictorian at Pontiac Central, visited Oakland as part of a high school field trip and got hooked on the school. She came upon nursing almost serendipitously.
“We had to do a paper in high school on what we wanted to be when we grow up. I didn’t know what I wanted to be. I picked nursing because it sounded like it would be a good career. And then, the more I researched it, the more I liked it. I really like working with people,” she said.
Ferdon already is pondering the possibility of law school after completing the nursing curriculum. “It’s called a legal nurse consultant,” she said. “You give legal advice and medical advice on issues like malpractice.”
More Opportunity, More Diversity
In addition to attracting the best and the brightest to OU, the scholarship program is an innovative way to increase diversity on campus and in the nursing profession.
“We targeted Pontiac because we get so few students from that city,” Adams said. “The competition for students from urban settings is tough. A lot of times students who are really talented and come from urban communities have many schools trying to recruit them.”
And that diversity is very attractive to prospective employers.
“Beaumont and other area hospitals are very interested in having a diverse pool of nurses and we want more diversity in our student populations,” Adams said. “The nursing profession should reflect the increasing diversity in our population.”
All three of these Pontiac Central High School graduates agree that Oakland was the right choice for them.
“I get homesick so much, so I don’t think I would be able to go to another state,” Moody said. “After my first year here, I can’t say there’s anything I don’t like about Oakland University.”
A smaller campus and student population was one of the reasons Ferdon chose OU. “I didn’t want to go to a big school,” she said. “I wanted to go to a smaller school that wasn’t overwhelming. Here I can get extra help when I need it and at bigger universities you don’t get that personal attention.”
For Page, the decision was pretty obvious.
“I chose Oakland because Oakland chose me in the ninth grade,” she said with a smile, explaining that she was offered a scholarship at OU when she was a high school freshman.
The scholarships represent a win-win-win situation for the School of Nursing, county students and the local health care profession. To meet growing demand, the school is expanding its enrollment from 108 students per class to 200 this year. It’s a big step, but it reflects OU’s tradition of providing quality nurses to the profession.
This fall, the school will mark its 30th anniversary and plans to throw a party to celebrate. And you can bet that Moody, Page and Ferdon will be front and center.