Students of the inaugural Vander Werff (traditional BSN) class of 2027 were welcomed to campus by Ric Oberholz, a former student of the university who donated a generous gift of $1.5 million in the Vander Werff family name.
Students had the opportunity to meet Mr. Oberholz, University President Fr. Oliver Doyle, and the Dean for the School of Health Professions, Dr. Joseph Cameron Jr.
“It’s the beginning of a wonderful journey for everybody.” Oberholz said addressing the program’s launch. “It warms my heart just to see [the students]. To see this starting and actually in place. It’s a great feeling.”
The launch of the traditional BSN program comes at a time when Montana is facing a continued shortage of nurses. Spurred by the continued effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, many communities in Montana, especially rural areas, are facing continued shortages in nursing professionals, a trend Mr. Oberholz hopes the university’s traditional BSN program will help to address.
“The greater Montana community, they’re going to need nurses.” said Oberholz when asked about the impact the program will have on the greater community. “Why do people go to a hospital? They go to a hospital for nursing care. Even in rural Montana, those communities rely on nursing care.”
The traditional BSN Program is the first School of Health Professions program to reside on-campus in Great Falls, joining a predominately online degree catalog of allied health and nursing programs. The program is the latest addition to the university’s established catalog of bachelors of science in nursing degree programs – including the Accelerated BSN program in Lewistown, MT, and Anchorage, AK, and the Online Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN-BSN) program.
Peter Munera from Queens, New York, who already earned his Associates of Science in Biology, is enrolled as a pre-nursing student. He will begin taking nursing courses as a full-time student in the third year when the fall 2023 cohort begins taking their first nursing courses in the fall of 2025.
“Growing up I had a lot of nurses that made an impact in my life.” Munera said of his decision to become a nurse “I came from a less fortunate family, which is not always a bad thing, but they definitely made an impact on my life, to where I too want to be a nurse,”
Avian Martinez was also inspired to become a nurse by family. “I was inspired by my grandmother and mother. They’re both in the healthcare field and they’re really big inspirations in my life.”
Unlike Munera, Martinez will go through two-years of liberal arts courses before starting nursing courses in the fall of 2025, part of the programs four-year on-campus experience designed to prepare students to serve as well-rounded nursing professionals by combining a foundational liberal-arts education with leading clinical nursing skills required of today’s nursing professionals.
In the fall of 2025, both Martinez and Munera will have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in these nursing skills through a soon to come state-of-the-art nursing facility, which is made possible through the generous donation by the Vander Werff family. The gift will cover the cost of the construction of the new simulation lab while also providing renovations to a lecture hall on campus.
“It is our intention to facilitate and host more events like this throughout the year and throughout the students’ experience in the program,” said Dr. Cameron of the events, “we want students to develop a sense of community in this program, learning how to become not just patient advocates, but leaders in their discipline.”
Those who are interested in enrolling in the traditional BSN program as either an incoming freshman or as a transfer student can find more information about enrollment deadlines, admissions information, and detailed information about the program on the Traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing webpage or through the undergraduate admissions page. Questions about the program can be answered by an admissions counselor. Speak to an admissions counselor when you request more information.