Indiana State University Newsroom

First class enrolls in accelerated degree nursing program

June 16, 2011

Eight years after completing a psychology degree at Indiana State University, Alice Kambe started back to college this summer to pursue a second degree in nursing with a goal of caring for new mothers and their children.

Sarah Lemons hopes to combine a Spanish degree from DePauw University with an ISU nursing degree to serve the growing number of Hispanics in the U.S. who speak little or no English.

Kambe and Lemons are part of a diverse group of 15 students in the first class of a new ISU program enabling persons with existing degrees to obtain a nursing degree in as little as 15 months.

The accelerated bachelor's program is one of several new degrees the ISU College of Nursing, Health, and Human Services is launching to help address a shortage of health care providers, especially in rural areas.

"There is a nursing shortage that is fast becoming more critical as the baby boomers begin retirement," said Gloria Plascak, chair of the baccalaureate nursing department in Indiana State's College of Nursing, Health, and Human Services. "The accelerated second degree nursing track will help address the shortage. In many cases the track will also facilitate the retraining of professionals who have lost jobs in other disciplines due to the troubled economy."

The program is intense, but the second degree students bring with them unique learning needs and qualities, Plascak said. They are generally more self-directed, challenging, autonomous, and mature than traditional students, she said.

Kambe has worked with autistic children in Southern California, but her mother, brother and sister - all of whom are nurses - convinced her to make a career change.

"They kind of drilled it into me that in this economy, if you want to have job security, you need to go back to nursing, so that's what I did," she said. "My mom has always told me I could do psych nursing, that was her way of trying to get me back into nursing and I considered it and I'm keeping my options open."

But Kambe's first choice is to work as a post partum nurse.

"I have some experience in that area. You get to work with the mother, teaching the mother how to care for the infant, and you still get to work with the infant, helping to care for them in the hospital," Kambe said.

While Kambe moved back east to Terre Haute, Lemons has her sights set on a move in the opposite direction.

"I would love to move to the West or Southwest and use the Spanish with nursing," said Lemons.

Like other students in the program, Kambe, who has four children of her own, and Lemons, who graduated from DePauw just last year, consider the condensed time frame to be appealing.

"Having small children, it's a better option to graduate faster. I have some experience already with other undergraduate courses that are required for this program. It's just more beneficial," Kambe said.

"I'm going to hopefully go right into a master's program," said Lemons. "I chose this program because it's quicker. I'm ready to be done and I don't want to spend another three years getting another bachelor's, and then go do my master's." Whatever the background of students in the accelerated nursing degree program, they agree it is challenging.

"With us already having degrees, we've established that we know it's important to study and get through a program," said Brandi Fritsche, who holds a degree in exercise science from George Mason University. "With the courses that we're taking right now, we're doing 16 weeks of classes in four weeks, so having that ability to manage our time and get through it is important."

The second time around, the students are also more sure of themselves.

"Nursing isn't something that we're testing the waters with," said Brooke Llewellyn who, like Kambe, already holds an ISU psychology degree and is the parent of small children. "Nursing is something that we've had time to think about and it's something that we truly want to do. That sets us apart with the accelerated program."

Students whose existing degrees are from other universities said ISU faculty and students made them realize they had come to the right place.

"I came for a visit and met with some advisors and they showed me around. I met with very hospitable people. The teachers are very polite and indeed truly care about the students here," said Fritsche.

"I have friends that are graduates of the traditional nursing program here so I think their influence was really big in saying. ‘You know, this is a good school that has this nursing program and they're looking at an accelerated program. Why don't you try it and see what happens?'" she said.

Lemons said she's not just learning from ISU faculty but also from other students.

"We're so varied and different and these people are strong and intelligent and I learn a lot about life in general, just as much as the nursing, which is just as important," she said.

For Kambe, Indiana State has become a family tradition. A native of Uganda, she came to Terre Haute when her father Alfred Kambe came to Indiana State to complete a Ph.D. in life sciences. Her mother, brother and sister also hold degrees from ISU.

"I had many opportunities through ISU. It's a good college and it's very diverse," she said. "I wouldn't be in America if it wasn't for ISU and I plan to send my kids to ISU."

Photos: - Alice Kambe, who holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from Indiana State University, is among 15 students in a new accelerated degree nursing program. (ISU/Tony Campbell) - Jaci Babcock (left), Brandi Fritsche and Brooke Llewellyn are among 15 students in the initial class of students in a new accelerated bachelor's of nursing program at Indiana State University. (ISU/Tony Campbell)

Contact: Gloria Plascak, assistant professor and chair, department of baccalaureate nursing, College of Nursing, Health, and Human Services, Indiana State University, 812-237-3688 or

Writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or