A School of Nursing professor is looking at ways to increase diversity at Penn and nationwide.

Earlier this month, Nursing assistant professor Brooks Carthon was awarded a two-year, $75,000 grant to conduct a national survey of minority student recruitment and retention efforts in the nursing profession.

She received the grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s “New Connections” program, which is designed to introduce new scholars into the field of nursing and to expand diversity.

With the grant funding, Carthon plans to assess current nursing initiatives and determine a common set of measures that are effective in recruiting underrepresented minorities, she explained.

According to Carthon, inadequate minority representation in the nursing field is a problem that is recognized nationally, as well as at Penn.

In 2011, the Nursing School’s undergraduate program was made up of about 60 percent white, non-Hispanic students. Additionally, students of color — which include black, American Indian/Alaskan Native, Hispanic, Asian or Pacific Islander and multiracial students — was about 33 percent, according to Kathleen McCauley, associate dean for academic programs in the Nursing School.

“Penn is pushing for as much diversity as possible,” McCauley said. “Right now, we are more of a white-woman profession than we should be.”

“Penn has done a great job in reaching out to minorities, but there can definitely be more done to increase racial diversity,” added Nursing junior Spencer Stubbs.

Carthon hopes that her research may ultimately help to narrow some of these gaps.

“It would be great if we could also consider individuals who come from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as those who are first-generation students,” she added.

The Nursing School has already established a strong partnership with Penn’s admissions office, added McCauley, which should help to increase diversity in upcoming years.

Nursing professor Barbra Wall — the faculty adviser of the Minorities in Nursing Organization — added that under the University’s ongoing Action Plan for Faculty Diversity and Excellence, the goal will be to diversify the student and faculty populations of the Nursing School over the next two years.

“The tragedy of the ultimate magnitude is when Nursing students transfer into other schools,” added McCauley.

Carthon hopes that the information gathered from her research will help to inform effective methods for student retention at other schools as well.

“There will be economic benefits of carrying out a comparative effectiveness research study, which will not only help policy makers but institutions as well,” she said.

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