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Alvernia wins competitive Federal Nursing Workforce Diversity grant

Date: 9/19/2011

Alvernia University announced today that is one of only 11 institutions nationwide to win a 2011 competitive federal grant from U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Part of HRSA’s Nursing Workforce Diversity program, the research-based grant of $330,000, distributed over the next three years, will be used to expand and strengthen vital nursing training through scholarships, stipends, programming, and retention. 

Other schools receiving 2011 HRSA grants include the University of Maryland, Texas A&M, and Duke.

“Similar to changes that are taking place on the national scene, there are important challenges all around us,” explained Alvernia President Thomas F. Flynn, Ph.D. “Our population is aging, our workforce is becoming more diverse, and the health care system is under enormous financial pressures. Not surprisingly the critical need for and demands on highly trained registered nurses are rising and becoming ever more complex. Healthcare professionals everywhere increasingly require greater levels of training to confidently master the technology that is part of their profession, and also to administer care to patients from very diverse backgrounds and cultures.”

The grant funding will support development of Alvernia’s Success project — a highly relational retention project that blends existing campus resources with discipline specific mentorship strategies.

According to Karen Thacker, Ph.D., RN, CNE, nursing professor and Alvernia’s dean of professional programs, Alvernia’s freshman nursing students taking pre-requisite science and general education courses will be paired with tutor/mentors (professional Registered Nurses) to help prepare them for more difficult courses. “This is very important, as beginning nursing students often find it difficult to transition from initial science courses to more challenging nursing coursework,” said Thacker. Sophomore to senior level students who are fully matriculated into the nursing program will benefit from program-specific individual tutoring and exam preparation for seniors.

A key component mandated by HRSA’s guidelines is a summer enrichment program for incoming freshman. Early intervention for successful completion of four lab science courses will be central to Alvernia’s summer’s program. All incoming freshman nursing students will be invited to participate.

“We will also create opportunities for our students to be role-models to future generations of nursing students by visiting middle and high schools with representative under-served student populations to share their journey and success stories,” said Thacker. “All health-care is local and personal. Anyone can have great equipment, facilities, and interventions. But if we don’t deliver care that integrates our patients’ preferences and value-systems, our efforts are minimalized in the long-run.”

PH: Gerlach, Thacker, Flynn

Pictured left to right: Congressman Jim Gerlach, Karen Thacker, Ph.D., RN, CNE, and President Thomas F. Flynn, Ph.D.


  • History: Established as a private four-year liberal arts college in 1958, Alvernia celebrated its 50th year by being awarded university status in 2008.
  • Heritage: Founded by the Bernardine Sisters, a Catholic religious order, the university embraces the Franciscan core values of service, humility, collegiality, contemplation and peacemaking.
  • Motto: “To Learn, To Love, To Serve”
  • Campus: The main campus in Reading is 121 acres, with two satellite campuses in Philadelphia and Pottsville (Schuylkill County).
  • Location: Our residential campus is situated three miles from center-city Reading, in the scenic Blue Mountain area of Eastern Pennsylvania.
  • Enrollment: 3,000 students attend Alvernia including 1,500 traditional undergraduates, 600 continuing education students, and 780 graduate students. Over 77% of first-year students live on campus.
  • Faculty: Our professors are accomplished scholars, experts in their fields, and supportive mentors. The student-to-faculty ratio is 14:1. Most classes are 20 students or fewer.
  • Athletics: NCAA Division III, member of the Commonwealth Conference of the Middle Atlantic States Athletic Corporation and member of Eastern College Athletic Conference, 8 men’s and 10 women’s intercollegiate sports.