As they work toward merging their programs, leaders with the College of Nursing at Georgia Health Sciences University and the Department of Nursing at Augusta State University envision a time when three different programs will be running in parallel on GHSU’s campus until they can be unified.
As complicated as things sound, however, they are vowing to get it done.
ASU’s program will move to GHSU in December and its faculty have already had a chance to scout for offices, while some GHSU faculty will be moved to accommodate them, College of Nursing Dean Lucy Marion said.
“We’re not just going to place ASU faculty in whatever is available there,” she said. “We want to have a coherent plan for where we will all be.”
And that plan includes everyone from ASU nursing, including staff associates, Marion said.
“We’re going to need them all because we are on a growth pathway here,” she said. “We’re continuing with our vision of growing and ASU is not going to be the only way we are growing. We’re still growing our graduate program. We need everybody. And our faculty is really looking forward to having the addition of ASU.”
The initial result will have about 140-150 students, the same as if the programs had continued separately, although they might not all be admitted in one class, Marion said.
The office move might be the easiest part of bringing the two programs together. There are subtle differences in entrance requirements - GHSU requires a formal interview and references, for instance, while ASU does not, said ASU Chair Charlotte Price.
“But those are things that we have toyed with anyway among ourselves and our admission committee,” she said. “So this sort of gives us an opportunity to rethink that.”
GHSU has a higher minimum GPA to apply and a community service requirement, which could be of concern to the roughly 500 pre-nursing students at ASU, some of whom might have been targeting ASU’s program while others were fixed on going to GHSU, Price said. ASU also gets calls from students at other schools interested in its program, so they need to know what the changes will be as well, she said.
“Basically what we’re saying to them is just stay the course now and look at the GHSU Web site to see what other things they require and you might want to consider that,” Price said. What the admission standards will be for the new program, as well as the new curriculum is already being worked on by committees, Marion and Price said.
“The thing about nursing is very few nursing programs are exactly alike even though they offer the same degree,” Price said. “There are some minor differences based on the curriculum and the philosophy of the faculty who created that curriculum. We’re working those out. But there are some basic things that are very similar.”
The new curriculum will probably contain elements of both of the old programs, Marion said. Where it gets complicated is in the fall when the old will still be in place even as the new is being assembled and offered up for acceptance to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools for approval.
“We are admitting both of our programs under the old curricula this fall,” Marion said.
“Because we are still separate institutions,” said GHSU Provost Gretchen Caughman. Should SACS approve it in December, however, the new university kicks in during January. Those entered under the old programs will finish out under those programs even as the new curriculum is in place.
“It is going to be a heavy task to keep three curriculums going at one time but that is the plan,” Marion said.
While it is complicated, GHSU has had experience in it before, particularly in the College of Allied Health Sciences where some specialties were switched from undergraduate to masters programs and students were in both tracks simultaneously, Caughman said.
It will also mean students in the old programs will get more diplomas in 2013, Caughman said.
“All students that entered into one of the old universities, the existing universities, will have the option to have a diploma that reads as their original university,” she said. “They will get a new university diploma as well. They will actually be graduates of the new university but there will be an option to actually have two diplomas, which is what we are doing currently for our grads. We feel like that is the least we can do.”