St. Joe's graduate nurses in 1978, including Robin Smith (top left)
May 28, 2020—As the new RN to BSN Nursing Program at Humboldt State University has begun accepting applications for its first new cohort of students, one alum has stepped up to support the program through scholarships.
“Being a nurse is a special type of person; we’re called to heal. And the world needs a lot of healing right now, so I think that it is really important to support nurses,” says Robin Smith (‘78, Nursing), who recently created the Robin M. Smith, RN to BSN Nursing Scholarship Endowment to do just that.
Smith created the endowed scholarship with a $150,000 gift. The renewable $2,000 scholarships will support multiple nursing students in the new program.
Smith recalls her experience paying for her education with financial aid, work study, and loans. After retiring from her full-time job working in the pharmaceutical industry, she was thinking about how she could give back, and after reading that the nursing program was launching, she decided it was time to act.
“The wisdom and lessons learned during my time at Humboldt continue with me to this day. I received a very good education at Humboldt, and in the nursing program. We had excellent clinical and public health opportunities, and top notch professors. I learned so much and was very appreciative of that,” she says.
“I think it is a very important endeavor and was glad to hear it’s an RN to BSN program, which will help the nurses in the community,” Smith says.
Kimberly Perris, director of the RN to BSN Nursing program, says the support is very much appreciated, and echoed the idea that the program has a strong local benefit. “It is keeping nurses and their expertise in our community to solve our healthcare problems.”
Perris notes that programs such as the RN to BSN program fill gaps in the current healthcare system, preparing nurses to work in community health settings, public health, and in developing programs to better serve communities. Perris also says that in order to get more nurses in leadership positions, particularly in public health, they must have a BSN, which the new program provides.
“It’s more than just getting those initials behind your name; it really is going to provide more opportunities in your career, for leadership positions, entrepreneurial positions, and beyond,” Perris says.
However, many students have found that finances continue to be a barrier, even after they have received their RN and have secured jobs. Many are working nurses, who may not qualify for financial aid but who still face gaps in supporting families and not being able to work full-time.
“I wanted the scholarship to be substantial and decided to endow it so it would be available every year. I don’t want students to worry about losing the financial support that they need to live on or to feed their children because they want to further their career,” Smith says.
Smith credits her successful career in healthcare and the global bio-pharmaceutical clinical research industry due in part to her BSN degree from Humboldt State University. Her early nursing career was shaped during her time in Humboldt county, working at St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka from 1976 to 1980 as a Nursing Assistant, Graduate Nurse, and RN, as well as completing her public health nursing student project with the Hoopa Valley Tribe, where she learned from tribal elders and healers. Later, she worked as a nurse in Seattle, conducting clinical research through the University of Washington, and ended up working in that field for 40 years, which took her all over the country and the world. Now, in addition to working as a swim coach, she’s been applying her western medical training to alternative healing modalities including sound and energy healing and aromatherapy.
“Now the bachelor’s degree and RN are opening doors for me in alternative healing therapies. I’m learning that because I have the license, the knowledge, and the work history, what I do actually carries weight. It’s good for the students going through the program to know that there are several opportunities to branch out to do other things that are local in Humboldt County.
To learn more about the HSU Nursing program, visit nursing.humboldt.edu. You can support nursing students by giving to the Robin M. Smith, RN, BSN Nursing Scholarship Endowment and the nursing program through gifts to the Humboldt State University RN to BSN Nursing Endowment. To learn about other ways you can support nursing students, including creating your own named fund, contact 707-826-5200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.