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Penn is helping to alleviate the shortage of nurses in the country by providing 15 students next year with a New Careers in Nursing Scholarship.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing has awarded the School of Nursing $150,000 for the second year in a row. The money will support incoming students who will be selected in June 2010.

Each student will receive a $10,000 grant to go toward any expense at Penn they choose.

Penn is one of over 50 schools to receive the grant.

“In addition to the University’s generous no-loan policy for undergraduates, this grant has been a great recruitment tool to ensure the best and brightest students interested in nursing are able to pursue their educational goals at Penn,” Nursing Assistant Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Carol Ladden wrote in a statement.

According to Nursing Assistant Dean for Curricular Initiatives Margaret Griffiths, this opportunity is “intended to increase the representation of populations who are typically underrepresented in nursing.”

She added that while the School of Nursing is trying to increase its population of Latinos and Chicanos, it is also targeting male students — another demographic group that is underrepresented in nursing.

Seven of the 15 students awarded last year’s scholarships are male.

The award is intended for accelerated nursing students who already have bachelor’s degrees in fields other than nursing.

At Penn, these students have the opportunity of completing up to three master’s-level courses.

This means that they “get a leg up on their masters degree program,” said Griffiths.

First-year graduate student Gillian Flanagan is one of the recipients of the first cohort of scholarships.

She has a previous degree in psychology and is enrolled in the Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Program at Penn.

“Being awarded the Robert Wood Johnson Scholarship really sealed my decision to come to Penn,” she said. “It showed me that Penn was not just looking to merely give me a degree with the Penn name on it and shove me out the door into the professional world with a mound of debt and a ton of worries.”

Flanagan now has financial peace of mind, and so has the chance to get more involved in the school and participate in research.

She described the “looming thought of grappling with thousands of dollars in student loans” as “intimidating and frightening.”

With the financial security of her scholarship, Flanagan hopes in her future career she will be able to provide “peace of mind to those who struggle with mental illness.”

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