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Despite H1N1 and the financial crisis, the School of Nursing still found cause to celebrate the year 2009.

Yesterday afternoon, Nursing Dean Afaf Meleis spoke about the state of the Nursing School now and in the near future at the annual State of the School Address in Ann L. Roy Auditorium. She discussed the School's new batch of freshmen and financial-aid plans, as well as the effects of health-care reform and H1N1 on campus.

Meleis highlighted the School's Class of 2013 - its largest and most ethnically diverse batch of freshmen ever. Last year, the school had a Caucasian population of 83.9 percent. This year, that group forms 59.1 percent, with a significant increase in the number of international students. Meleis also lauded the increase in male students, which has gone up to 18 from 10 from last year.

Even more noteworthy, she said, is that the yield rate has risen to 83 percent.

Meleis added that she believes the increase in financial aid this year was crucial in attracting students. Eighteen percent of the School's $33 million General Purpose Fund went to financial aid, which lent more qualified students places in the school than otherwise would have been possible.

However, Meleis listed three risks that threaten the stability of the school: the economic crisis, the uncertainty over Obama's plans for health-care reform and the ever-present worry about H1N1.

A hiring freeze was implemented this year, adding to the worries over the projected shortage of standing faculty.

"The most pressing issue that a school of Penn's loftiness would and should want to address is to increase the number of staff, since so many are due to retire in five years," said Mary Anne Gamba, a new member of the Board of Overseers.

The school's plans for its elderly-care program - Living Independently For Elders - also hangs in the balance as it awaits the details of health-care reform. The program is now wholly supported by federal and state funding.

Still, Meleis said she remains optimistic about the school's plans. She praised the "connectedness of the School of Nursing's alumna," many of whom were implemental in helping 41 percent of the class of 2009 find jobs.

Prospective Nursing Ph.D. student Nuria Esandi, who graduated from the University of Navarra in Spain, said she admires Meleis because she "was realistic about the challenges in the nursing community."

"I hope to study in Penn because research here is so developed," she added.

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