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UTA nursing Ph.D. students awarded prestigious national scholarships

Four nursing doctoral students have been selected as inaugural University of Texas at Arlington Jonas Scholars through the generous support of the New York-based Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence.

Pictured is the inaugural class of Jonas Scholars

Clockwise (from top left to right): Cecilia Lijuanco, Megan Harper, Elesha Roberts and Ruth Bargainer.

The Jonas Center selected UTA’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation for two of its signature programs earlier this year, the Jonas Nurse Leaders Program and the Jonas Veterans Healthcare Program. The center is a leading philanthropic source for the nursing profession, awarding grants that advance scholarship, leadership and innovation. Only about 7 percent of the nation’s nearly 2,000 nursing programs have been chosen to participate in the program.

Jonas Scholars are part of a nationwide effort to increase the number of doctoral-prepared nursing faculty. Fewer than 10 percent of the nation’s nursing faculty members have doctoral degrees, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

“This is a big shot in the arm for our Ph.D program,” said Anne Bavier, dean of the UTA College of Nursing and Health Innovation. “This will help us attract the most talented students who want to pursue careers in academia and research.”

The Jonas Scholars at UTA program is made possible through a grant from the Jonas Center for Nursing and Veterans Healthcare. Each Jonas Scholar receives a $20,000 scholarship each year for two years, with half funded through the Jonas Center and the other half funded by UTA.

Bavier said that limited scholarship support has been a deterrent for many nurses interested in pursuing doctoral degrees. More than 20,000 students are pursuing nursing degrees through the College this year in campus-based or online programs. Of those, 39 are enrolled in the PhD program and 43 in the Doctor of Nursing Practice program.

“These scholarships from the Jonas Center are a vital tool for helping us address that challenge,” she said. “The Jonas Center is making a huge contribution to enhancing nursing education and healthcare in the United States.”

The program is aligned with UTA’s goal of advancing health and the human condition, one of the four core themes of the Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact.

The Jonas Center offers two kinds of scholarships for doctoral students: one for Jonas Nurse Leaders Scholars Program that seeks to increase the number of advanced practice nurses who can work as health care leaders, nursing school faculty and primary care providers; and another for Jonas Nursing Scholars Program for Veterans Health that provides scholarships to PhD and Doctor of Nursing Practice students focusing on health care needs specific to veterans.

The 2016-2017 UTA Jonas Nurse Leaders Scholars are:

  • Ruth Bargainer, an assistant professor and regional program director at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Nursing in Abilene. She is studying the impact of simulation as an educational technique in nursing curricula on student, patient and health system outcomes.
  • Megan Harper, an associate professor in the Associate Degree Nursing Program at Lone Star College in Tomball, Texas. Her research interest is the success and retention of nursing students.

The UTA Jonas Veterans Healthcare Scholars are:

  • Cecilia Lijauco, a healthcare improvement coordinator at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. Lijauco is studying the prevailing disparities in cardiovascular health and outcomes among African-American women.
  • Elesha Roberts, a clinical assistant professor in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Accelerated BSN programs at the University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio. Her research interest is the overall health and quality of life of older adult African Americans diagnosed with hypertension.

The Jonas Center was founded by Barbara and Donald Jonas, philanthropists who have worked to address underlying issues contributing to the nation’s nursing shortage and its impact on the healthcare of individuals and communities.

“In 2008, we set an ambitious goal to support 1,000 Jonas Nurse Scholars. This year, on our Center’s 10th anniversary, we celebrate this achievement and are amazed by the talent of this cohort of future nurse leaders,” Donald Jonas said. “We are proud to partner with The University of Texas at Arlington and share its commitment to advancing health and the human condition through teaching and learning, research and service to the world.

“We welcome these four students into our Jonas Scholar community and look forward to the great impact that they will have on improving healthcare around the world.”

About the UTA College of Nursing and Health Innovation

UTA’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation is a National League for Nursing Center of Excellence and encompasses one of the nation’s largest and most successful nursing schools and a renowned kinesiology program offering degrees in exercise science, kinesiology, athletic training and an undergraduate track in public health. The college is the largest producer of registered nurses in Texas and a leader in the use of online platforms and simulation technology to help more students achieve nursing degrees. U.S. News & World Report ranks the Master of Science in Nursing program and the online Master of Science in Nursing degree among the best in the country. The College’s highly regarded faculty is dedicated to advancing health and the human condition and investigates a wide range of topics in basic science, human performance and clinical conditions.

About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a Research 1 – Carnegie “highest research activity” institution of more than 53,000 degree-seeking students in campus-based and online degree programs and is the second-largest institution in The University of Texas System. U.S. News & World Report ranks UTA fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as the top four-year college in Texas for veterans on Military Times’ 2016 Best for Vets list. Visit to learn more, and find UTA rankings and recognition at