Albuquerque Nursing Campus Celebrates First Graduating Class

December 18, 2012

Gary Gum never had children, but Monday night he got a sense of what it's like to see his "kids" leave the nest as the first graduating class from GCU's cohort nursing program in Albuquerque, N.M., received its pins during a ceremony.

The seven members of the first graduating class at GCU's Albuquerque nursing campus pose with members of the faculty. "To watch these kids who came in at Level 1 in the program and see their growth and their maturity over these last five semesters, it's just amazing," said Gum, program director for GCU's College of Nursing in New Mexico. "It's a lot like having pride in your children and seeing them succeed."

Seven students earned their bachelor's of science degree in nursing: Cara Curtiss, Marisa Escobar, Oscar Hernandez, Leslie McDowell-Dolinski, Jason Mechenbier, Crystal Pettiford and Stephen Yu. They began their education in May 2011 when the cohort program opened in Albuquerque and helped build a program that already is expanding into a new building and increasing enrollment.

Renovation is under way on a 16,249-square-foot building in a prominent Albuquerque location that will open in January and become the new home for the cohort nursing program. The Albuquerque campus has approval from the New Mexico Board of Nursing to accept 24 students in January, and it hopes to have 24 more for a second enrollment period in August.

Gum credits the first graduating class for making much of that possible.

"As a whole, you could call that group our first-born," Gum said. "They are seven kids who 20 months ago took a leap of faith for a nursing program and a university they had never heard of. They have promoted Grand Canyon University and been out in the community; they've done community service and worked with parish nurses; they have really made a name for Grand Canyon because people now know who we are.

"If it wasn't for those guys, this new building wouldn't have been possible."

When cohort programs at other satellite nursing campuses such as A.T. Still University in Mesa and Scottsdale Health Care recently graduated their first classes in August, their students achieved a 100 percent pass rate on the National Council Licensure Examinations (NCLEX), which are required in order to be licensed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. Graduates of GCU and its satellite campuses have the highest NCLEX pass rates among all universities with bachelor's programs in Arizona.

So ... no pressure, right?

"There is always pressure with the NCLEX," Gum said. "But this past week our students have taken what is called the ATI proctored exam and every one of them scored 90 percent or above. I am confident they will all do well."