MTU Senate OKs resolution backing nursing program

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Paul Bergstrom, chair of Michigan Technological University’s Senate Policy Committee, discusses the proposed four-year nursing program at Michigan Tech. Senators passed a resolution supporting the concept of the program, for which administrators are finalizing a proposal. It would essentially relocate the nursing program of Finlandia University, which is closing after this semester. If approved, the program would start this fall.

HOUGHTON — Michigan Technological University’s Senate unanimously approved a non-binding resolution supporting a new nursing program at Tech, as senators also heard more details about the work to replace the program that would otherwise be lost when Finlandia closes this summer.

“The resolution is just to let the students at Finlandia know that we are starting to take action and it won’t be forever,” said Senate President Mike Mullins.

The nursing degree would be the same four-year bachelor’s of science in nursing now offered by Finlandia. It would be offered starting this fall.

The program would likely begin at a modest scale, including about two dozen students continuing from Finlandia as well as some students from Michigan Tech who are interested, said Paul Bergstrom, chair of the Senate Curricular Policy Committee.

President Rick Koubek called for the formation of a team to explore developing the program, Bergstrom said. It has been meeting weekly.

Details of the plan are still being worked out. The department will likely use space in the Dow building. It is also tentatively planned to become part of the biological sciences department.

The specific curricular proposal could come to the CPC before its Monday meeting, Bergstrom said.

“This is as fast as I think it’s ever been done at Michigan Tech, in terms of trying to make this happen,” Bergstrom said.

As for instructors, the plan is for the Finlandia nursing faculty to transfer into positions under Tech’s biological sciences department as instructional-track faculty. The faculty had chosen to become instructional-track rather than tenure-track, Bergstrom said.

“We talked to them about what tenure-track faculty looks like at Michigan Tech versus instructional-track faculty, and the consensus was that their roles in the university were more consistent with instructional-track faculty rather than tenure track,” said Andrew Storer, Tech’s interim provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.

The faculty would primarily be responsible for 17 nursing courses that don’t overlap with prerequisites already available at Tech.

Tech is also hiring a Finlandia staff member who had coordinated contracts with medical sites where the students undergo their training.

“Because of the scope of the people who are involved and the amount of effort that has been afforded to put forward on this, the reality is that this is being launched much more rapidly than anticipated,” Bergstrom said. “But a piece of why it’s able to be done that way is we’re not starting from scratch. We’re starting from an existing program.”

Michigan Tech is one of the universities that have entered into teach-out agreements with Finlandia University. On its website detailing financial assistance to Finlandia students, Tech said it had entered into exclusive discussions with Finlandia about continuing the program.

Tech had previously offered a two-year associates’ degree in nursing from 1973 to 1982.

There’s also some evidence of a four-year program offered sometime in the 1950s, though no registration information has been found, Bergstrom said.

“This is the number-one program we get asked about that we don’t have at Michigan Tech,” said Christine Grotzke, Tech’s senior associate director of admissions.

Senators said the new program would serve an important purpose in the Western Upper Peninsula, and also boost enrollment.

Senator Brett Hamlin said it could also have demographic benefits for the Tech, where women make up just under 30% of the student population. While 84% of practicing engineers are male, 86% of nursing students are female, he said.

“This is kind of a no-brainer to help change the face and the dynamics that we see on campus, help balance some things out,” he said.

As an emergency resolution, Thursday’s measure needed a two-thirds vote to pass. There was no opposition.

The resolution said the Senate will consider a proposal for a bachelor’s degree in nursing, which will be submitted to the Senate Executive Committee in time to be fully reviewed by the Curricular Policy and Finance committees before debate and approval by the full Senate. The Senate will schedule a special meeting if necessary to finalize its vote before the end of this year’s Senate calendar, tentatively scheduled for May 3.

Interest in nursing isn’t limited to Michigan Tech. Thursday, Gogebic Community College and Northern Michigan University announced a partnership that will enable nurses with two-year associate’s degrees to get a four-year degree through NMU while attending the GCC campuses in Ironwood or Houghton.


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