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Fort Lewis College partners with University of Colorado to start nursing program

Curriculum to focus on rural and Indigenous health care perspectives
Fort Lewis College is working on a curriculum for its partnership program with the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus that will provide a four-year nursing degree focusing on rural and Indigenous health care perspectives. (Courtesy of Fort Lewis College)

A new partnership between Fort Lewis College and the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus to develop a four-year undergraduate nursing degree program in Southwest Colorado is underway.

“We’re thrilled to be partnering with the health care visionaries at CU Anschutz to bring this caliber of nursing education to Southwest Colorado,” said Cheryl Nixon, FLC provost and vice president of academic affairs, in a news release. “We are aligned in our community-focused values, and this collaboration will leverage the unique Indigenous perspective and sense of place that FLC brings into all of our academics.”

FLC and the University of Colorado College of Nursing at Anschutz Medical Campus are working to develop a curriculum that combines hands-on, culturally sensitive, patient-centered health care with the latest trends in medicine, such as telehealth.

“By partnering with Fort Lewis College, we are bringing world-class health care education into a highly respected liberal arts environment, optimizing the best of both environments to deliver a top-tier nursing education,” said Donald M. Elliman, chancellor of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, in the release.

The Durango-based program will fuse FLC’s liberal arts core with the nursing curriculum at CU Anschutz. Students will be expected to build creative and a critical-thinking foundation in STEM-focused general education courses alongside nursing courses uniquely aligned to rural, Indigenous health care perspectives.

“It is important for patients to experience health care from professionals who look like them, and can understand their backgrounds,” said Elias Provencio-Vasquez, dean of the University of Colorado College of Nursing at Anschutz Medical Campus, in the release. “Expanding the opportunity for furthering careers in nursing ensures that the students of Southwest Colorado can serve their communities and beyond.”

Forty-six percent of FLC’s student population is Native American, and the new nursing program will be aimed at producing nurses who have a connection to Indigenous communities.

The FLC and CU Anschutz partnership is funded in part by a $1 million donation from Karen Zink and Steve Short. In January 2022, Zink and her husband launched the Karen Zink Family Fund for Nursing Education Leadership. Additionally, Short, former chairman of the FLC Board of Trustees, and his wife are supporting the first student cohort with a $30,000 nursing scholarship fund.

“This partnership between FLC and CU has the creative potential to change the landscape and show how health care can and should look,” Zink said in the release. “This program will help prepare the nurses of the future.”


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