I was born in a home where my dad was finishing college and my mom was working as a hospital nurse. My dad worked hard raising a family and pursuing his dream to become a medical doctor. Early in his career, he would take me along as he would make house calls in rural east Tennessee. I remember sitting in the car as he carried his black medical bag into the home and anxiously awaiting his return. Fast forward about 40 years, I was invited back to east Tennessee as the community had a farewell celebration in his honor. I proudly observed as hundreds of people personally thanked my dad for the genuine care and love he had shown them and their families. My dad’s values about people impact me to this day. My dad was dedicated to serving and helping others.
Southwestern Adventist University’s tagline—Knowledge, Faith, Service—resonates with the values my dad holds so dear. As a university, it is incredibly important to help students learn and understand and to have a foundation of knowledge that will help them make decisions in life. Few higher education institutions emphasize the faith element, an element that knits us closely with our God and provides a purpose for our lives. When knowledge and faith are blended together, the natural outgrowth is service to others.
Our institution as a whole is dedicated to equipping students with knowledge, establishing an environment where students can grow in faith, and providing opportunities to serve others. This is how our nursing program is providing service to others. Dr. Sallieann Hoffer, our department chair, says that our faculty members not only have outstanding credentials, each is guided by Christian standards and possess a heart to serve others. Recently, some of our faculty, nursing students, and other volunteers, spent their spring break in the Dominican Republic where they touched the lives of nearly 1000 patients in five clinics. Though I am sure these patients were blessed, the caregivers received the rich blessing of helping others. Service brings a deep satisfaction that cannot be measured. Cleburne Rotarian, Dr. Tony Torres, has partnered with us for nearly 20 years and we are indeed thankful for his leadership in making this experience so valuable to our students.
This past fall, our nursing students joined with Texas Health Huguley Hospital and the Keene Seventh-day Adventist Church in providing a wellness and lifestyle program for the community. Next month, they will once again be joining the Keene Chamber of Commerce as part of the Annual Health Fair/Business Expo. Students are learning the value of service.
I am so pleased with our nursing faculty and students. Last spring, our pass rate on the NCLEX was 97%. This is the exam students must pass to become a registered nurse. Out of the 113 nursing schools in the state of Texas, their test score was ranked at #10. Our students are obtaining the knowledge necessary to become nurse leaders.
With our growth in the nursing program, from 117 students in 2000 to 190 students today, we are lacking adequate space to educate our nursing students. There is a critical need to update the nursing department facilities to better mirror the advances in nursing education technology and professional practice that exist within healthcare today. Last month, with about 200 in attendance, our nursing students and nursing faculty were excited to be a part of the groundbreaking ceremony for the new nursing and administration building.
Over the past couple of years, we have been raising the necessary funds for a $15.5 million building. To complete the project, we must raise $1.5 million. As a result of a generous donor’s matching gift, every dollar donated will be matched by two dollars from the donor. So as we raise $500,000, the donor will provide the last $1 million. The building will be equipped with state-of-the-art skills labs and simulation rooms. The community has been incredibly supportive of the University and the building project. I am so grateful for everyone’s support.
The nursing program at Southwestern Adventist University serves local public high school and private high school graduates. More than 40% of the nursing department enrollment are students from Johnson County. The University takes great pride in the diversity among various ethnic and religious backgrounds with approximately 45% of the students being Hispanic. The University is excited about providing more nurses to help meet the growing nursing shortage, nurses who are experienced in providing service.
I was inspired by my dad’s love and service for others, and I continue to be inspired by our students’ desire to serve others. I like how the Bible says it, “Above all, love each other deeply.… Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others…. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4.8-11). I am blessed to be a part of a University that emphasizes knowledge, faith, and service.
Ken Shaw, Ed.D., is the President of Southwestern Adventist University. This article is an opinion piece written by the President for the Cleburne Times Review.