Firsts are always worth celebrating—never more so than this December, when two new types of graduates were among those who crossed the commencement stage.
The University’s Direct Entry Master of Science in Nursing (DEMSN) program, under the direction of New Braunfels Campus Executive and Assistant Director of Nursing Amy Hart and Director of Nursing Dr. Ruth Eby, sent twenty-three graduates out into the field—the first cohort to complete the program. Every last one of them has already taken and passed their board exams to become registered nurses, and all of them are already practicing professionally.
“This is a new concept in our nation,” according to Hart—the idea of earning an accelerated master’s degree in nursing with only one additional semester tacked onto the bachelor-level nursing degree, so that both degrees are attained in twenty months’ time. In Texas, TLU was the second university to offer such an option, right behind the University of Texas at Austin. TLU’s second cohort in the program is already well underway, and a third will launch this January. “We have thirty-five signed up and we have a waitlist,” Hart says, with Eby adding that, “students are coming from across all time zones,” and the hope is that this program will soon expand to accept new batches of students twice a year rather than just once.
Prospective DEMSN students should know that they’ll need to complete their prerequisite coursework before entering the program, and that it “takes rigor and discipline” to get through it, but they aren’t required to have a background in healthcare to be accepted. The program is designed for students who hold a bachelor’s degree in any academic major and would like to become nurses—and in the end, it’s worth the work, as graduates are highly sought-after for internships, externships, and employment opportunities.
Kayla Dippel entered the program having already earned her BS in human development and family studies from Texas Tech University. A mere twenty months later, she’d obtained both her BSN and her MSN through the DEMSN program. “To be honest, when it comes to accelerated nursing programs, a lot of them are online with some clinical hours. But at TLU not only was it in person, I also had the opportunity to receive over 950 clinical and lab hours.”
Students gain experience in a wide range of settings, including mental health centers, hospice centers, operating rooms, PACU, emergency rooms, labor and delivery, post-partum, children’s hospitals, and critical care units in neurology, cardiac, lung, and burn to name a few. It was because of this broad range of experience that Dippel found her passion in labor and delivery—and landed her current job. “I graduated on a Saturday and started orientation the following Monday! I am so incredibly grateful for all of the support and knowledge I received at TLU that got me to my dream job.”
Dippel says that the DEMSN program is challenging, but that it “shaped me into the nurse I am today and will become in the future. I wouldn’t be on the other side if it weren’t for all of the amazing and intelligent educators that pushed me toward the finish line every step of the way. Each encouraged me to work my hardest and do my best, and for that I am incredibly grateful.”
Meanwhile, the first cohort of MBA graduates also received their master’s hoods and diplomas this December. MBA Director and Associate Professor of Business Mark Peacock says that an accelerated online MBA program is brand new to TLU. “We’re excited to watch this grow,” he says of the program, and even as the first cohort graduated this year, the second was already underway, with the goal being to offer two launch dates per year.
What sets TLU’s MBA program apart from others like it? “Personalized attention,” says Peacock. Professors know their students by name and take an interest in their goals and careers. And even though the program is entirely virtual, the relational aspect that is the hallmark of a TLU education is still very much in play. “We do it through discussion forums, group projects, some live meetings with faculty, and occasional meetups, which help students feel connected to their professors and to one another.”
The two academic themes that run through the program are business analytics—the crucial ability to tell a story with data—and change management. “Coming out of Covid, we had to learn to manage change in new ways to a degree that we never imagined,” says Peacock. Graduates of TLU’s MBA program are well-versed in this vital skill.
Igneris López Ríos, who just earned her MBA, works full time and is a busy mother of two. “TLU's MBA program provides the flexibility I need to reach my career goals. The MBA faculty at TLU are very supportive and always willing to help students succeed.”
Another December graduate, Robert Harrison, pointed out that MBA students are given the opportunity to “take lessons learned in class and apply them to real-world scenarios and real-world workplaces.” He adds that group projects such as building a full-fledged marketing plan for a local business were especially valuable.
With eight-week semesters with breaks in between, the program is rigorous, “but we have it structured to reflect a rhythm that allows people to maintain their lives,” Peacock says. Prospective students can be accepted into the program from any educational background as long as they complete the necessary prerequisites, which can be obtained by taking relatively short online modules, equipping them to step into the program with the neeeded level of understanding. Taken on a full-time basis, the master’s degree can be earned in only twelve months.
Both the MBA and DEMSN programs combine academic rigor with personalized attention—and the sense of connectivity between students and professors that is, as Hart puts it, “a reflection of the legacy of TLU.”