Five students will graduate this weekend from Iowa State with their bachelor of science in nursing degrees, the first graduating class of nurses in the university's history. Contributed photo.

First class of nursing students to graduate from Iowa State

For the first time in Iowa State’s history, a group of graduating nursing students will walk across the stage and accept their diplomas during Saturday’s commencement ceremony.

The five students started their journey to obtaining their bachelor of science in nursing degree in the fall of 2018 – the first time nursing classes were offered at Iowa State. Students are required to already have their associate’s degree in nursing prior to enrolling in Iowa State’s nursing program.

The decision to start an RN to BSN program was the result of a need verbalized to Iowa State’s president by Des Moines Area Community College representatives and area healthcare leaders.

“They really were looking for an option for community college students and other nurses who only have an associate’s degree to have a baccalaureate-level program they could finish their degree with that was at Iowa State…and could really be a part of the opportunities in Ames,” said Virginia “Ginny” Wangerin, clinical assistant professor and director of Iowa State’s nursing program.

Opportunities to individualize learning experience

What makes Iowa State’s nursing program stand out from other programs is the students attend classes on campus each Tuesday. This allows them to interact with their instructors and peers in person, rather than just online.

With a curriculum focused on population health and self-care, students have the opportunity to get out in the community to experience various aspects of nursing instead of just bedside care. Places they’ve visited include Youth and Shelter Services in Ames, a homeless camp in Des Moines, and Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

“I feel like we have been afforded a lot of opportunities to become familiar with our own community here in Ames and across a more broad spectrum,” said Tessa Sklenar, graduating nursing student.

The students also can individualize their education, having the opportunity to take two elective courses that fit their area of interest, whether that be leadership, gerontology or some other area.

“They are getting an education that was designed to really make a difference for them,” Wangerin said. “They have so many individual choices, and that was important to us, because when you’re going back for a degree, it needs to surprise you and create learning opportunities you didn’t expect.

Proud to be part of first graduating class

The students will receive their nursing pins Friday afternoon during the College of Human Sciences convocation, a symbolic welcome into the nursing profession.

Looking back at the past almost three years since she began putting together the program, Wangerin is proud of not only how far the program has come, but of the nursing students, as well.

“I’ve always said my greatest goal was that they’d be better nurses when they left, and they’re all agreeing that they are,” Wangerin said.

“I am so proud of them because they’ve worked so very hard,” Dawn Bowker, clinical assistant professor, said of the graduating nursing students. “Their goals have come to fruition. They have conquered this program so well and they did it with such poise and grace. They have been leaders in the community and have represented Iowa State so well.”

Being able to say they are the first graduates of Iowa State’s RN to BSN program is an honor for the students, and they are ready to take the knowledge they’ve gained and share it with others in the nursing profession.

“I’m so grateful to my professors – they’ve taught me a lot – and I’m ready to go out and share the knowledge I’ve acquired with my co-workers and with my team,” said Shirley Ohene-Yeboah, graduating nursing student.

“I feel really proud to say I’m graduating from Iowa State with my nursing degree, especially being part of the first class,” added Alaina Bohnert, graduating nursing student. “I think if you’re looking for a school that will give you the opportunity to network, meet awesome people, and just become a better nurse, then Iowa State’s the right program for you.”