Celebrating Fifty Years

School of Nursing
School of Nursing
School of Nursing located in the Rod Lee Bigelow Health Sciences building

A commitment to educational mobility and flexibility has fueled the School of Nursing's four decades of growth. In 1965, 48 students enrolled in an associate degree program sponsored by UNR's Orvis School of Nursing, with Elizabeth Franklin serving as director; two years later, the first class of 19 graduated. In 1966, the program became a nursing department, and administrative control was given to Nevada Southern University. In 1973, Rosemary Witt was appointed chair of the department and for the next 30 years oversaw many important changes to the program.


In 1974, the associate degree program received full accreditation by the National League for Nurses Accreditation Commission, the country's longest established accrediting body of nursing education programs. Thirteen years later, the first class of students was admitted to the bachelor's program, which replaced the associate degree program. In 2002, the School of Nursing received full reaccreditation, without recommendations, through 2010.

Innovative Curriculum

To further its mission of educating intelligent, caring, and respected nurses, the school has developed various curricular innovations over the years:

  • In the 1960s, the Intercampus Television Project—a video conferencing exchange—enabled Nevada Southern students to enroll in the baccalaureate program in Reno while Reno students could enroll in the associate degree program in Las Vegas.
  • In the early '70s, a "career-ladder" approach to the curriculum gave students multiple entry and exit points, culminating in a baccalaureate degree.
  • In 1975, a "2 plus 2" curricular plan allowed students who held associates degrees in nursing to continue their educations at the university and receive bachelor's degree.
  • In 1992, with the assistance of a grant from the Northern Nevada Health Education Center, the department began offering RN to BSN classes via compressed video to students in Elko, Nevada.
  • In 2004, when the nursing shortage became critical, the school overhauled the curriculum to enable students to complete their classes in 16 months.
  • In 2006, in collaboration with St. Jude College in Manila, the school began offering an online program for medical doctors in the Philippines wishing to become family nurse practitioners.

From Department to School

The department of nursing became a school in 2003, and Carolyn Yucha was appointed founding dean the following year. The School of Nursing now enrolls more than 300 students in a range of programs designed to address the pressing need for nurse clinicians, educators, and scientists. In addition to a bachelor's in nursing, the school offers a web-based master's program with three tracks—family nurse practitioner, pediatric nurse practitioner, and nurse educator—and a web-based doctoral program focused on nursing education. The registered nurse to bachelor of science/master of science in nursing program allows students who have registered nurse licenses to further their educations.

Faculty Research

Faculty members are involved in wide-ranging research with clear benefits to the community, including:

  • "Effects of a smoke-free law on hair, nicotine, and respiratory symptoms in restaurant and bar workers," co-authored by assistant professor Nancy York.
  • "Culturally sensitive treatment of metabolic syndrome in Asian Americans," co-authored by assistant professors Patricia Alpert and Sally Miller.
  • "Symptom experience, mood disturbance, and social support in breast cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy," co-authored by associate professor Yu Xu.
  • "Back pain in direct patient care providers: Early intervention with cognitive behavioral therapy," co-authored by associate professor Nancy Menzel.

Community Outreach

Community involvement has been a hallmark of the nursing program. In the early years, faculty developed and taught workshops and sponsored continuing education classes for Nevada registered nurses. Organizations such as the Auxiliaries of the Southern Nevada Memorial Hospital, Home of the Good Shepherd, and the Clark County Medical Society held teas, fashion shows, and other fundraisers to support the school, purchase equipment, and develop scholarships. This tradition has continued, with the school partnering with various clinical agencies that have helped fund additional faculty. In 2002, to enhance students' clinical skills, Sierra Health Services contributed to the purchase of a human simulator—a lifelike mannequin that can be programmed to simulate bodily functions such as breathing and heart rate.

Nursing students have also had an impact on the health of the community:

  • In spring 2007, students reached more than 120 older adults with vital information and tactics for preventing diabetes and maintaining cardiovascular health and proper nutrition.
  • For the bilingual Innovations International Charter School, students worked with faculty to develop a database on student health, provide health information on various subjects at teachers' requests, and sponsor a health fair.
  • The Student Nurses Association participates in a range of activities every semester, such as sponsoring a book drive to provide a long-term adult nursing care facility with recreational materials.

Our Graduates

Graduates of the School of Nursing go on to pursue important and rewarding careers. For example, Barbara Fraser, '93, is director of nursing education at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center. Many alumni have become nursing faculty, including at UNLV, such as lecturer and clinical instructors Alona Angosta, '94 and '00, and Susan VanBeuge, '03, clinical nursing instructor Jessica Doolen, '96 and '04, lecturer Kevin Gulliver, '84, '88, and '97, and lead teacher Sue Witt, '78.

At UNLV's 75th anniversary, the School of Nursing aspires to be a research-extensive school with innovative and competitively funded programs of research that has the potential to improve national and international health.


1965 - Elizabeth Franklin (later Dick), director, associate degree in nursing program
1966 - Margaret Simon, director, department of nursing
1971 - Mary Ann Kedzuf (later Michel), chair, department of nursing
1973 - Rosemary Witt, chair, department of nursing
1976-77 - Vicky Onyett (later Carwein), acting chair, department of nursing
2003 - Rosemary Witt, interim director, School of Nursing
2004 - Carolyn Yucha, dean, School of Nursing