MILWAUKEE — A $31 million donation to Marquette University will go towards increasing diversity and inclusion in its nursing program.
The donation comes from alumni Darren and Terry Jackson, and starting this fall it will provide scholarships to nursing students from diverse backgrounds. Later on, the University says it will provide up to 80 scholarships each year.
The goal is to produce 5,000 nurses over the next ten years, with 1,000 of them being from diverse backgrounds.
The donation will also allow the nursing program to provide telehealth education, as well as a teaching program to help build up nursing faculty.
Jasmine Hernandez graduated from Marquette's nursing program last May in the middle of the pandemic. She's now a nurse at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.
"I was looking forward to graduation from the moment I stepped on campus," Hernandez said. "That was just a huge milestone, not only for me but for my parents. They’ve made so, so many sacrifices for me."
According to a 2020 survey from the Wisconsin Center for Nursing, Hispanic, African American, and Asian American nurses each make up a little more than two percent of the state's workforce. The survey shows more than 93 percent of Wisconsin nurses are white.
"When we have a workforce that doesn’t mirror the populations we serve, we have healthcare disparities that exist, so outcomes will be worse," said College of Nursing Dean Janet Krejci. "Increasing our workforce diversity is going to increase our patient outcomes. We know that racism has created healthcare inequities, we know that, and that is highlighted with COVID-19."
Hernandez said she believes this effort will help more students like her showcase their heritage and make a difference in health. She says Marquette helped her find her voice.
"I think it can be hard when you are any type of minority student to kind of feel seen sometimes, or feel heard, that your experiences matter," Hernandez said. "So I think it was always really important for me that I always felt that there. I always felt a sense of community, a sense of mentorship."