Nursing Celebrates 50 years

Jacob WaringOnline Editor

The nursing program at Southern is 50 years old, and alumni from that semicentennial period visited the campus for a night celebrating the anniversary.

Cheryl Resha, chair of the nursing department, said the event was about reminiscing about the memories and achievements of the past with an eye on the future, too.

This evening’s theme, Looking Back as We Look Forward, is a fitting title for an evening of celebrating where SCSU has been and where it is headed,” said Resha.

The former chair of the nursing department, Lisa Rebeschi, who currently works as an adjunct in the doctoral program, spearheaded the task of gathering alumni to attend the 50th anniversary. She said she enjoyed seeing the expression of astonishment on the faces of the alumni regarding how the campus and the nursing program had grown.

“That’s probably one of the highlights of tonight’s event,” said Rebeschi. “Having some of those folks return and see the dramatic transformation of the campus, but also of nursing here at Southern.”

She said some members of the first nursing class were in attendance, and they attended at a time where the nursing program was comprised of just 13 students. At the time, the program was just one program, rather than the seven it encompasses now.

“I think it’s significant that the program started with just 13 students and today being one of the largest majors on the campus,” she said. “Starting just one program and now seven programs from the baccalaureate level to the doctoral level.”

Eldred Mathieu a 1973 graduate, was part of the first nursing class and was the only male to have graduated in that class.

According to Mathieu, he was proud to see how much the campus had expanded in the last 50 years and how the nursing program had grown and prospered over many decades. Mathieu said he marveled over the fact that today’s generation of Southern nursing students have more accessible tools, while his class was the one to work out the early kinks in the program.

“[We] were the guinea pigs going through the first few classes, and now it’s
better,” he said.

Some of the nursing students, such as Maegan Wing, a senior, were part of the catering service and had chances to interact with the alumni who graduated over the years.

“I feel very small compared to the amount of intelligence we have in the room right now,” she said. “The amount of nurses that have gone through this program before us and where they are at now in their careers is amazing to me.”

Wing said it was encouraging to see how many of the alumni had found success in their careers and the different pathways and opportunities they experienced.

“I think it’s definitely motivated all of us because I feel like we get discouraged very easily in the program, between tests and schoolwork and having to wake up at 5 a.m. every day,” Wing said.

The school’s administration, including President Joe Bertolino and Provost Robert S. Prezant, gave remarks to the nursing alumni.

President Joe Bertolino said that, on average, about 70 percent of the nurses at Yale come from Southern.

He estimated that Southern has 400 to 500 alumni that work at Yale and that 1,500 currently work in hospital health services.

“I believe we’re represented very well in health care here in New Haven and here in Connecticut,” Bertolino said. “I thank you for that.”

Prezant spoke of his appreciation for Southern nurses and thanked them for all they have done for their communities and especially Southern’s community.

“I certainly had a lot of nurses in my life as I would be treated, as all of us have. The roles you play have touched every single person,” Prezant said. “Thank you for what you give to [Southern]. It is appreciated.”

Sandra Bulmer, dean of College of Health and Human Services, announced to those in attendance that the College of Health and Human Services will be breaking ground in just a few weeks. She said that the new building will be open in December of 2021 and presented a slideshow that show that showed the entire floor-by-floor plans of the new building. She said it was the first time the entire plans were shown publicly.

Leslie Mancuso who graduated from Southern in ’78, was the evening’s keynote speaker.

Mancuso initially spoke about how much Southern has changed as an institution since she graduated and said that Southern left a positive impact on her and many nursing graduates at Southern. Mainly, she talked about how nurses are not only nurses. She said that may have been the case when she graduated back in ’78– but for today’s nurses, that has changed.

“There is no doubt that when maybe we graduated or someone in ‘78 graduated a nurse was a nurse was a nurse. No longer,” she said. “Innovators, entrepreneurs, educators, researchers and CEOs are all possibilities for us as nurses.”

Mancuso said that nurses nowadays have the abilities, skills and knowledge to tackle any health crisis.

“Together, we, as a profession, can tackle any of the global health challenges” she said. “Whether that be universal health care, people having access to care no matter where they live, no matter what their economic level is.”

She said that nurses are the backbone of the health system and that nurses make up 80 percent of the health workforce in the world. She claimed that nurses are the largest profession in the world. The nursing profession is 20 million strong, and she said that is “a powerful base to do good in the world”.

Many of the nurses who are becoming leaders in their field, according to Mancuso, are coming from Southern.

“This program here is pointing out nursing leaders,” she said. “I’m so proud to be a graduate of this nursing program.”

Photo credit: Jacob Waring

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