Celebrating a tradition of innovation

UCM School of Nursing Ahead of the Curve for 60 Years

By Julie Clawson, Ph.D., '78, '83

Nursing at MIC horizontal

Back in 1959, a vision came about for a baccalaureate degree program in nursing at Central Missouri State College (CMSC). Now, 60 years later, the University of Central Missouri (UCM) School of Nursing continues to be a leading innovator in the caring science of nursing education.

I had the privilege of being a student at CMSC, and later serving on the faculty and as a school chair over a span of 34 years. My story is not unique; I am one of many individuals who learned the profession at our university, gained experience in the field and then came back to serve on the faculty alongside our former teachers. One of my greatest teachers, Kathy Robinson, ’71, became my colleague when I joined the faculty in 1985. She had taken over as school chair in January 1978, following interim chair Edith DeMott, one of the first faculty members at the school and one of Robinson’s most influential teachers. (Pictured below: Kathy Robinson, Edith DeMott and Dean T. Raleigh Gaines.)

Nursing historical chairs 

Always ahead of the trends in nursing education, CMSC’s nursing program was conceived to serve the region as one of the early four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs in an era of mostly private, hospital-based three-year diploma programs. Ethel Henderson, the first school chair, was hired to do a feasibility study for the program in 1959, and three students were admitted in 1960, launching a nursing program designed to prepare professionals for meeting the needs of rural and urban residents.

On the Warrensburg campus, the Grinstead building housed the first nursing classes and lab. Clinical experiences, known as practicums, gave students hands-on application of their nursing knowledge at the rural setting of Bothwell Hospital in Sedalia. In their junior and senior years, nursing students were required to live in Kansas City in order to learn and practice in the urban setting of Menorah Medical Center.  

The nursing student organization Tri-Kaps (pictured at Homecoming below) formed in 1965, the same year a position paper on nursing education was published by the American Nurses Association in the American Journal of Nursing. This influential paper positioned nursing as a profession and emphasized the need for nurses to complete a Bachelor of Science. With a Missouri State Board of Nursing-approved four-year degree already in place, CMSC was once again ahead of the curve.

Nursing TriKaps Homecoming 1967

Fast-forward to 1978 when the program became nationally accredited by the National League for Nursing under Robinson’s leadership, just months before I completed my BSN — one of only 13 graduates from an initial class of 30. We went to school year-round, and nursing was, and still is, a rigorous program. In addition to a strong faculty and a wide variety of learning experiences, UCM’s School of Nursing has a carefully designed curriculum that emphasizes a caring relationship between the nurse and patient — the art or heart behind the science. Learning how to use therapeutic communication is a special strength of UCM’s nursing graduates.

After gaining valuable experience in the field and earning my master’s degree, I returned to the university in 1985 to begin my teaching career. I witnessed many advancements in teaching methodology and technology, with UCM’s School of Nursing always at the forefront.

In 2004, UCM’s College of Health, Science, and Technology awarded $15,000 to the School of Nursing to update our nursing skills lab in Warrensburg, and a faculty grant funded a technology skills video room, enabling the streaming of video between students in Warrensburg and those doing their clinical experience at North Kansas City Hospital. In 2006 the lab on the lower level of the Student Health Center was redesigned, and IV therapy-type simulators were introduced.

A promising graduate student named Sara Hoffmann, ’08, came to UCM at this time and two years later, as a new member of our faculty, helped develop a second lab location at Central Summit Center in Lee’s Summit. Another student-turned-teacher success story, Hoffmann is now assistant chair of the School of Nursing at UCM.


Under a Caring for Missourians grant, UCM welcomed our first SimMan 3G, a high-fidelity patient simulator the students named TRACEE (Technology Regulated and Computer Enhanced Education) in 2009. Faculty were able to simulate negative and positive responses to treatment using a computer in a control room while students inserted trach tubes, gave IV medications and more.  

The School of Nursing now has three high- fidelity manikin patients that respond directly to treatment, speaking, breathing, bleeding, urinating, crying and even going into seizures. A fourth manikin, named Victoria, even tracks students with her eyes as they move around the room and delivers a breech baby via C-section. We also have lower-fidelity infant, pediatric and adult manikins on which students can practice head-to-toe assessments and insert IVs or urinary catheters.

Nursing Students SimMan 

In 2016 the School of Nursing was fully re-accredited, and in 2017 UCM invested in the state-of-the-art simulation lab at The Missouri Innovation Campus (The MIC) in Lee’s Summit. Through a partnership with Summit Technology Academy, operated at The MIC by the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District, high school students throughout the metropolitan area can learn from the latest technology and from UCM student mentors, overseen by UCM faculty, during a two-year pre-professional nursing program. These secondary students potentially move on to earn a nursing degree.

UCM’s School of Nursing serves students from all walks of life with a variety of degree options, including a fully online RN to BSN program for registered nurses who have an associate degree and seek to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing. The RN to BSN program, which moved to an online curriculum in 2007, graduates approximately 90 students each year and was ranked among the Top 5 in Missouri by TopRNtoBSN.com in 2019. Also this year, UCM’s online master’s program, with emphasis options of family nurse practitioner or nurse educator, was ranked fifth on a list of the nation’s 10 Most Affordable Online MSN Degrees by BestHealthDegrees.com. This part-time program is primarily geared toward working adults, with nearly 200 currently enrolled.

UCM’s nursing program has always rested on the strength of outstanding faculty, students and curriculum, along with the support of our alumni. Prepared as nurse leaders, alumni have long made lasting advances for the nursing profession and health care industry. As our School of Nursing celebrates 60 years, we are proud to look back on our legacy of collaborative learning and innovative teaching.  

Julie Clawson, Ph.D., ’78, ’83, was chair of UCM’s School of Nursing from 2002 until her retirement in June 2019. She served on the university’s faculty for 34 years.


Nursing Cap


To learn more and support UCM nursing students, visit ucmfoundation.org/give/school-of-nursing.




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