$1.7M grant to bolster sense of belonging in UC’s nursing college

Funding will increase diversity among students and faculty and embed education on health disparities

By: Katie Coburn

Belongingness is proven to enable academic success. Research shows, when students feel they are truly accepted and supported in a learning environment, they are more likely to achieve their goals.

That is one reason the University of Cincinnati College of Nursing embraces opportunities that cultivate a climate of inclusive excellence. To further this mission and better serve disadvantaged and underrepresented minority (URM) students, the college sought out and won a four-year $1.7 million Nursing Workforce Diversity grant, titled "Cultivating Undergraduate Nursing Resilience and Equity" (CURE).

Eva Fried, DNP, CNM, WHNP

Eva Fried, DNP, CNM, WHNP

Funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration, the project seeks to improve the college's climate and broaden learning experiences to help prepare and expand a nursing workforce that is reflective of and responsive to an increasingly diverse patient population. Over the next four years, CURE will center on four objectives that build on successful evidence-based strategies already in place at the college:

  1. Increase the sophomore application rate of disadvantaged/URM
    students to the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program
    to 20%.
  2. Provide comprehensive financial, academic and social support
    for 35 disadvantaged/URM students.
  3. Embed curricula and experiential learning addressing targeted
    health disparities in Hamilton County, using maternal mortality
    as an exemplar.
  4. Hire at least four new faculty from URM backgrounds.
Donna Green

Donna Green, PhD, MSN, C-EFM

"Ideally, subsequent to our grant funding time period, there will be a different proportion of students of color to the overall proportion of students than the one we have today, which will create an improved climate of belongingness for future students," says Eva Fried, DNP, CNM, WHNP, assistant professor and director of the college's Nurse Midwifery program.

Fried applied for the grant in January 2021 alongside Assistant Professor and Director of the Undergraduate Nursing Program Donna Green, PhD, MSN, RN, C-EFM; then-Dean Greer Glazer, PhD, RN, FAAN; Interim Associate Dean for Academic Affairs of Undergraduate Programs Angie Clark, PhD, MSN, RN, CNE, FAAN; Director of Academic Student Advising Deborah Gray, M.Ed, and Program Director of the Committee for Equity and Inclusive Excellence Kiana Million, MHI. In October, Emily Rose Cole joined the CURE team
as program coordinator.

The CURE project supports the university's emphasis on inclusive excellence as part of its Next Lives Here strategic direction.

More support for underrepresented & minority students

The CURE program fills a gap in the college's existing recruitment strategies by focusing on sophomore admission to the BSN program.  

To increase the number of disadvantaged/URM students who apply, the CURE team is working with The Health Collaborative and area high schools to target students in pre-college pathways and undecided UC freshman who are exploring nursing as a career

The CURE fellowship program made such a big impact on my life, not only financially, but also by providing me with a strong support system.

Sokhna Baro Bachelor of Science in Nursing Student and CURE Fellow

URM students who are accepted for sophomore admission to the nursing program are invited to apply to be a CURE fellow. Nine students have accepted fellowship positions for the current academic year and received financial support to help reduce barriers to their success, which will continue throughout their undergraduate careers as long as they maintain good academic standing.

Students selected as fellows are Bridget Acquah, Sokhna Baro, Aylessa Carter, Aaliyah Dodson, Lauryn James, Caroline Kwiatkowski, Naiah Mensah, Rachel Oliver and Roselyn Torkornoo.

"Coming from a low-income family, I didn’t have the opportunity to get financial support to help me pay for college, books, transportation or even housing. I worked extra shifts to be able to make ends meet. So, when this opportunity knocked on my door, the relief off my shoulders helped me focus more on school," says Baro. "The CURE fellowship program made such a big impact on my life, not only financially, but also by
providing me with a strong support system. I am beyond grateful for this blessing and opportunity."

Curricula that addresses racial and ethnic health disparities

The grant's impact extends beyond the CURE program's fellows. The curricular frameworks that Fried and Green are integrating into theundergraduate program will "help prepare all students to transition into the workforce as more informed care providers," Green says.

"Each year, approximately 700 women die in the United States as a result of pregnancy complications and thousands of women experience unintended health outcomes during their pregnancy and birth processes. Nurses play a critical role in improving maternal health, addressing racial and ethnic disparities in care, recognizing health status changes, educating patients and overall management of maternal health in both the community and acute care settings."

While the curricula will focus on addressing overall racial and ethnic health disparities, it will include specific content on the disparities in maternal mortality and morbidity.

"When care providers are white and the recipients are people of color, there is historically discounting of pain and other important symptom markers," says Fried, who has ample experience providing prenatal and postpartum care as a women's health nurse practitioner
and certified nurse midwife. "There's a correlation in health outcomes when the care provider has racial or ethnic concordance with the patient, so this is an upstream measure for creating more care providers who might have that concordance."

Both Fried and Green have long-standing careers in maternal health and are active leaders in the field. Fried maintains leadership positions through the American College of Nurse Midwives at the national and state level. Meanwhile, Green, who has 22 years of experience working as a perinatal nurse and nearly as much experience as a clinical educator, leads the Greater Cincinnati Chapter of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses.

"Workforce diversity and its intersection with maternal health is literally the driver for my entire career," Fried says. "One of the ways that it really comes together for me is in the concept of belongingness, and that's our goal with climate change, faculty diversification and creating these cohorts."

In 2025, when the grant funding expires, Fried and Green plan to analyze the project's success and apply for additional funding, because when it comes to cultivating a culture of belongingness and inclusive excellence, there is always room for improvement.

Featured image at top: Bachelor of Science in Nursing students selected as the first CURE fellows include (top row, from left) Aaliyah Dodson, Roselyn Torkornoo, Caroline Kwiatkowski, Aylessa Carter, (bottom row, from left) Sokhna Baro, Lauryn James, Rachel Oliver, Bridget Acquah and Naiah Mensah. Photo/Evelyn Fleider/UC College of Nursing

Next Lives Here

Inclusive excellence. More than simply a metric, inclusion is the driving force behind the University of Cincinnati's strategic direction, Next Lives Here. By activating inclusion, the university amplifies its impact.