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Center of Excellence

The College of Nursing and Health Innovation has been recognized as a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education by the National League for Nursing. The designation means big things not only for the College, but also for students and alumni alike.

By Amber Scott

UTA Illustrated

Sol Seul Han is working on her BSN degree at UTA and wants to earn a Master of Science in Nursing and eventually become a nurse practitioner. “Nursing is the path I chose because of the intimacy I get to share with my patients,” she says. “I am with my patients 12 hours a day, if not more. I can really impact lives not only through medical intervention, but also through simply caring for them.”

Han chose UTA and the College of Nursing and Health Innovation because she knew it would give her the foundational knowledge she would need to meet and exceed the demands required of today’s nursing professionals.

This reputation for taking passionate students and turning them into knowledgeable and skilled professionals is precisely why the College of Nursing and Health Innovation was awarded a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education designation by the National League for Nursing (NLN) in 2015. It is one of only 21 colleges in the nation to receive the honor.

The NLN, the country’s foremost organization for nursing faculty and leaders in nursing education, noted that the College demonstrated sustained, evidence-based, and substantive innovation in the category of “Creating Environments that Enhance Student Learning and Professional Development.” In order to qualify for the designation, the College had to meet stringent criteria covering the total student experience—from undergraduate programs through master’s– and Ph.D.-level work.

“Being named a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education shows that a very complex and very large college can be at the top of the heap, and that the quality of everything we do is provable and sustainable,” says Anne Bavier, dean of the College. “Our success is a wonderful testimony to the consistent high aspirations of our faculty and staff as we work to support the learning and professional growth of the students in all of our nursing programs.”

Learning the Role

A crucial component of a student nurse’s education is role socialization, an ongoing and evolving process wherein students gain a better understanding of their personal values and how those values will fulfill professional expectations.

“The faculty knows how to push students to excellence while helping them reach their goals.”

While much of this growth happens intrinsically as students work to complete their degrees, the College places a focus on ensuring student success through programs that support interaction among students and between students and faculty.

A signature program of the College is its Student Success Program. Initially implemented in 2004 to increase retention and graduation rates of nursing students from disadvantaged backgrounds, the program has expanded to include all undergraduate students in the off-campus and on-campus pre-licensure programs. In the program, student success coordinators assist students with the transition into nursing school, provide stress management strategies, and guide students through classroom and online presentations that focus on clinical course content.

This student-centered support infuses all aspects of learning within the College. Linh Ho, a junior working on her nursing degree, counts the collaborative spirit as one of the biggest strengths of the College.

“The staff is extremely caring, and my fellow nursing students are a wonderful group to grow with,” she says. “The faculty knows how to push students to excellence while helping them reach their goals.”

Female Nurse

State-Of-The-Science Teaching

As students interact with peers, mentors, faculty, and staff, they’re doing so in a state-of-the-science learning environment. A centerpiece of the College’s commitment to pedagogical research is the Smart Hospital, a national demonstration center for simulation education and research and for the development of health care innovations. The 13,000-square-foot facility includes an Emergency Department, an Adult Intensive Care Unit, a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, labor and delivery suites, and a Pediatric Unit.

To meet increasing demand, the Smart Hospital has also opened an extension, called the Smart Lab. Located on the fifth floor of University Hall, the Smart Lab features 15 private hospital rooms, five outpatient exam rooms, four assessment training rooms, and more.

“Overcoming the ‘learning by random opportunity’ associated with traditional clinical rotations can be mediated by simulation enhanced clinical education, developed and delivered by expert faculty,” says Judy Leflore, associate dean for simulation and technology. “Each student’s ability to think critically and develop confidence and competency in clinical skills is one of the many outcomes of clinical simulated scenarios. The Smart Hospital is a place where students can make a mistake, see the consequences of the mistake, and learn from the mistake.”

The College isn’t just employing innovative technological and research practices on campus; it’s also working with educational and clinical partners to set the standard for educational experiences students need to develop clinical competencies. This research was made possible with a $1.8 million grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and will follow more than 1,700 students over a 30-month period. The project will establish a model of clinical instruction that can be replicated or adapted by the majority of nursing programs in Texas.

Road To


take a tour of the college of nursing and health innovation

Infographic by Aldo Crusher

Nursing Students Illustration

With an enrollment of more than



Our College of Nursing and Health Innovation contains one of the largest and most successful colleges of nursing in the nation. With roots going back to 1890, the college is one of the oldest schools of nursing in the Southwest



National Rank

For producing minority nurses

with bachelor's degrees by

diverse: issues in higher education


Of the college's

undergraduate studies

are hispanic

17% African American


national ranking of online programs by


Funded research in


from grants and contracts


Pass rate for the national Board of Certification exam for the Certified Athletic Trainer credential

The College Awarded


Degrees during the 2014-15 academic year


Pass rate for students earning the master of science in athletic training


Pass rate for the Texas Advisory Board of Athletic Trainers Exam for Licensed Athletic Trainer credential

Number One in Texas

producer of

baccalaureate-degree nurses

in texas

Nursing Center

of Excellence


Honored the college as a nursing center of excellence. The designation, which extends through 2019, recognizes innovation in teaching and commitment to continuous improvement


Graduation Cap


number of nursing graduates

in the 2014-15

academic year, the most of any u.s. university

Empowering Students

As the College grows, faculty continue to place educational programs within the reach of every student. This requires that all curricula be flexible, dynamic, current, and relevant.

Key efforts in this regard include the accelerated BSN and RN to BSN programs, as well as hybrid models like the Veterans BSN program. These programs were developed to address critical workforce needs in the state while empowering students to achieve their personal goals. Other programs—like the co-op nursing education programs for BSN and RN to BSN students and the undergraduate Honors College track—are examples of how the college tailors the UTA experience to fit the individual needs of a diverse population of undergraduate nursing students.

“We expect that our on-campus program will remain robust, and our off-campus program will continue
to grow.”

Unwavering attention to the student experience is evident throughout the College. At the graduate level, the strategy to utilize a strong system of support enabled the College to ramp up online programs and increase enrollment in MSN education, administration, and nurse practitioner tracks. Throughout, the College maintained scores on first-time specialty certification examinations of almost 100 percent.

This spring, the College will graduate its first cohort of students in the off-campus MSN Family Nurse Practitioner program.

“We expect that our on-campus program will remain robust, and our off-campus program will continue to grow,” says Kathryn Daniel, associate chair of advanced practice nursing programs.

Another component of empowering students is the College’s strong emphasis on mentoring programs. Peer mentoring is crucial at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. At the graduate level, the College also offers a Ph.D. mentoring program, where Ph.D. candidates receive guidance and engage in special programming that will enable them to become nurse scientists.

Collaborative Successes

Helping students achieve their goals means collaboration must be fundamental to the way the college operates.

This fall, the College launched a partnership with the Pasadena Independant School District (ISD) and the UT Health Science Center at Houston for a school-based community health clinical rotation. Both undergraduate and graduate programs require nursing students to obtain clinical hours in a variety of rotations, including community health services.

“The rotation program will provide student nurses a look at the disparity within the district that many economically disadvantaged residents face with access to health care and how it impacts the educational process,” says April Weisedel, a Pasadena ISD nurse specialist.

Over the past decade, the College has also held a cooperative agreement with the Dallas VA (Veterans Administration) Medical Center. Within the VA, student nurses receive clinical instruction from a VA staff development specialist who also is a faculty member.

“Collaboration among the faculty, community partners, and students is one of our greatest sources of strength at all levels,” says Beth Mancini, senior associate dean for education innovation. “Strategic collaborations such as these are at the heart of everything we do.”

Male Nurse
Female Nurse

Innovative Educational Approach

In keeping with UTA’s model of innovation and demanding academics, faculty in the College are encouraged and supported to develop new pedagogies that create and sustain dynamic learning environments.

The development of the College’s academic coaching model is a place where innovative program design is an outcome of pedagogical research. Both online and on-campus courses utilize the team approach, with a lead teacher who updates and maintains course materials and academic coaches who interact with cohorts of 25-30 students.

Looking to the future, Bavier sees a college that is uniquely equipped to meet and exceed the demand for nurses throughout the state of Texas—and beyond.

“We accept the challenge of fostering and promoting a sustained educational environment that will be responsive and sensitive to the needs of the communities we serve,” she says. “We are pleased that we have been able to answer the call, and we are privileged to continue to do so.”

Laura Elizondo, an ICU nurse working at Baylor Scott & White Health, notes that the Center of Excellence in Nursing Education designation isn’t just a highlight for the College, it’s a point of pride that benefits alumni and the community as well.

“It is wonderful to hear that the UTA nursing program is continuing its tradition of excellence and distinction,” says the 2004 graduate. “Not only does it ensure that new nurses coming into the field are properly equipped and expertly educated, but it also serves as a proud background and strong recommendation to alumni nurses like myself serving all over the nation.”