Engineering, nursing programs planned

By Kaye Burnet | The Duquesne Duke

Duquesne is accepting applications for the University’s first engineering program and an online nursing program, which will both debut in fall 2014.

The School of Nursing will be offering an online program that will allow registered nurses to earn a bachelor’s of science degree in nursing. According to program coordinator Cynthia Walters, the program will fill an industry need, as employers are pushing aspiring nurses to further their education.

“[Studies] are showing better patient outcomes in facilities that have a higher amount of nurses with a four-year degree,” Walters said.

The online program will operate through Blackboard, and will encompass topics such as “quality and safety, ethics and informatics,” according to Walters.

The online format will offer greater flexibility to students, who will be able to fit their classes around their current jobs and lifestyles.

“There are a few credits of clinical [coursework], but they’ll be able to do that wherever they live,” Walters said.

As coordinator, Walters will work with students to design clinical projects at hospitals close to their homes.

Walters hopes to attract at least 40 students for the fall 2014 semester and grow the program from there. She said she hopes to eventually have “a few hundred students, like similar programs at nearby colleges.”

Tuition will start at $661 per credit, which Walters said is about average for programs in Pennsylvania. Students will take six credits per semester, and each semester will last about eight weeks.

Gina Plocki was recently hired as nurse recruiter to help Walters advertise the program. Plocki will begin her new job next week.

For now, Walters is focusing on recruitment.

“We’re going to go to every single hospital in Pittsburgh to talk to nurses on the floors, work with the nurse managers, try to find out if there’s ways that we can work to get the nurses comfortable with returning [to school],” Walters said.

Recruitment is also the main focus of John Viator, director of Duquesne’s new biomedical engineering program. Viator was hired in June 2013 to spearhead the implementation of the first engineering program to be offered at the University.

“[The university provost and president] just felt that Duquesne is in a great position for growth in this area, because engineering, and particularly biomedical engineering, is a growth field,” Viator said.

Viator, who previously worked in the University of Missouri bio-engineering department, said he does not think Duquesne is limited to only biomedical engineering.

“I think the idea is that, with the success of biomedical engineering…they are going to say ‘Maybe we should have a school of engineering,’ and maybe that will comprise of a department of chemical engineering, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering in addition to biomedical,” Viator said.

Duquesne has already received more than 100 applications for the 20 spots available for the fall 2014 semester. Viator said he intends to keep the department small, to better focus on the individual students.

“That’s one way I think Duquesne can distinguish itself in the biomedical engineering department,” Viator said. “I will know every single student … while they’re studying here, I will know their struggles, I’ll know their successes, I’ll know how to motivate them as individuals instead of motivating them as a gigantic group.”

The program is based in Liebermann Hall, where the fourth floor is being cleared to make room for classrooms and laboratories. According to Viator, he will be working in conjunction with already-existing departments at Duquesne, particularly in physics and the health sciences.

The program will grow in stages over the next four years, as the first class advances through their studies. Viator expects to hire approximately one new faculty member each year.

Currently, the only other faculty member in the program is Mary Jo Babinsack, who began her position as business manager and academic advisor earlier this month.

“It’s a nice challenge and a new opportunity,” Babinsack said.