As a senior nursing student at Augusta State University who also works at Medical College of Georgia Hospital, Ashley Hensley can admit to some “mixed emotions” about the merger of what will soon be her alma mater with Georgia Health Sciences University.
“There is duplication,” she said, and she worries for her instructors.
But those heading the two nursing programs say the merger should be a matter of addition, not subtraction.
“We still have the goal of growing,” said Dr. Lucy Marion, the dean of the College of Nursing at GHSU. “This new university has the goal of growing. We will be looking at the potential for growing our numbers.”
As the two universities merge in coming months, the most obvious overlap is nursing, with both schools having a bachelor of science in nursing program, a fairly recent addition at ASU that Dr. Charlotte Price, the program director, said has been growing, from 46 students in 2010 to about 180 now. In fact, when Marion arrived at GHSU more than seven years ago, she urged the school to get behind upgrading ASU’s program to a baccalaureate degree and has altered her school’s program accordingly.
“As they grew theirs, we reduced our undergraduate size” in the BSN program, which is at 182 and includes 25 former ASU students, she said.
Price and Marion have worked together on statewide committees and admire each other, so they said working together won’t be a problem. The two faculties met last week at a reception, and both sides said they expect everyone to be included in the new merged program.
“I think if people want to be a part of it that there will be a place for them,” Price said. “We certainly won’t lose any faculty through this process,” Marion said. “Not at all.”
She should know. Before coming to GHSU, Marion merged three departments at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
“It was tough,” she said. “But we did it. We succeeded, and we became synergistic across faculties. And we became a top department in a very top school. And I am expecting the same thing here.”
In fact, it is those “synergies” that are unknown now but are likely to emerge as people come together that will make the new entity different from the two previous nursing programs, Marion said.
“We’ll enjoy some of those different ways of looking at things and different ideas,” she said.
Hensley, the nursing student, said there is a perception that GHSU is more research-oriented and ASU more clinically focused.
“We’re clinically prepared very well at ASU,” she said. “Nursing is not all books. It’s about working with people. I do think there are differences in the program but I do see how it could turn into something bigger and better.”
Price said research actually is woven throughout the program and students are encouraged to get advanced degrees because of the shortage of nursing faculty nationwide, which is one reason positions are unlikely to be eliminated in the merger.
There is a question of whether they serve different populations and Price said she just doesn’t know the typical GHSU student.
“I know we have a very diverse student body in our classroom, diverse in terms of ethnicity, diverse in terms of age, that sort of thing,” she said.
That will likely be a big part of the early discussions between administrators and faculties.
“We’ll each bring to the table our perception of who we should be serving and how we can reach them,” Price said.
There are a number of logistics that have to be worked out: GHSU admits students once a year to the program while ASU does it twice a year, and the schools have different accrediting bodies. Both sides are confident the details will be worked out.
“They are not things in my mind that will be difficult,” Marion said.
Both sides are confident the merger will result in something bigger and better.
“Although we can’t create two different programs, I want to create something new so that it is integrated and synthesized, with new ideas, and synergistic,” Marion said.
“They have a good program. We have a good program,” Price said. “So the CSRA should wind up with a very good program. It’s going to be interesting to see what we are in the long run.”