Despite the COVID-19 pandemic posing concerns regarding college enrollment across the country, SIUE is seeing growth in diversity. The School of Nursing is also seeing enrollment increases for the second year in a row.

SON’s total enrollment for this semester was 1,877. This reflects a 17 percent increase in master’s and doctoral students and a 2 percent increase in undergraduate students. 

Chancellor Randy Pembrook said he expected to see enrollment continue to climb within SON. 

“The faculty are outstanding in terms of preparing students and making sure that their skill sets are great. I’m not surprised we are growing in the School of Nursing. I think one of the things we have been trying to do is to build bridges, for example, to the community colleges, for the people that want to continue on the associate level. They can do that by getting a bachelor’s through our School of Nursing,” Pembrook said.

Pembrook said he hopes prospective students will recognize the value of SON. 

“People always respond to quality, it will continue to spread the word for our school of nursing,” Pembrook said.

Laura Bernaix, dean of SON and professor, said she is proud and gives credit to the faculty.

“It makes me very proud, because our school is well known and highly respected … we are doing a fabulous job educating our students, and our faculty are doing a fantastic job. They work very hard to provide a solid education that prepares our graduates for the workforce,” Bernaix said.

Pembrook understands that learning virtually is not an easy thing to do, and he commends the students on going through with it. 

“I think that’s a challenge for everyone, when you get into a different format. Nurses have an additional challenge … I applaud their courage,” Pembrook said.

Bernaix said she acknowleges these are tough times and wants to let students know that she understands.

“We are very committed and devoted to our students. I recognize, and so do all the faculty and staff, that they have a lot going on. We are providing all the resources we can for our students,” Bernaix said.

Alishiana Ivy, a senior nursing major from St. Louis, said she was proud of herself for getting into the program, especially  considering how selective it is.

“I am extremely honored in being accepted into SIUE’s School of Nursing in Spring 2021. This program is very competitive because of its prestigious classes and quality teachers,” Ivy said.

Jaala Taylor, a senior nursing major from St. Louis, said SON resources have helped her to be successful, despite the challenging nature of the program.

“Being a nursing student is very demanding and stressful at times, but as I continue to push through each semester with the help of teachers, SI’s [Supplemental Instruction], mentors and peers, I know it will be worth it once I cross that stage,” Taylor said. 

While the School of Nursing’s enrollment has continued to increase, total enrollment for the university has fallen slightly compared to last year.

SIUE’s total enrollment for Fall 2020 is 12,860 — 1.5 percent down from Fall 2019. However, the SIUE student body is now more diverse than ever, with 29 percent of students reporting an ethnicity or race other than white. This includes the highest number of Latinx students, at 637, and students who identify as Asian, Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, at 370, in the university’s history.

Pembrook said increased diversity leads to other positive changes at the university.

“We feel that a variety of perspectives, a variety of experiences from our students, from our faculty, from our staff a better learning environment where people can understand things in different ways. I feel like it’s really fortunate we continue to try and create a greater diversity,” Pembrook said.

Pembrook also said recruiting more diverse students is a priority for the university, and administration plans to continue developing new resources to attract a diverse student body to campus.

“Increase financial support, scholarships … I also think we have some innovation like our Historical Black Colleges and University program, where we talk to HBCU partners, and particularly where we have graduate programs. We try to create a natural process of enrolling moving from the HBCU to SIUE,” Pembrook said.

For more information on the SON, visit their website.

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