School of Nursing Celebrates Milestone

by Janelle Meyers '08

The APU School of Nursing PhD in Nursing Program celebrated a milestone as Mary Lopez became the first student to complete the program's first PhD preliminary exam. The program began in fall 2004 and currently has 17 students enrolled.

Lopez was the first of those students to complete and pass the first preliminary exam on June 26, which consists of writing a synthesis paper that defines the student’s area of research and completing a one-hour oral exam where the student’s level of synthesis and critical analysis is evaluated.

“This is a huge opportunity for us to set the pace and to find out the potential of the program,” said Lopez. With 17 students and 5 professors in the program, students can receive individual attention. “The professors really care about the interests of the students,” said Lopez.

Marianne Hattar, RN, DNSc, FAAN associate dean and chair of the PhD program, has mentored Lopez both in and out of the classroom. “Dr. Hattar taught me to be comfortable with uncertainty. All of my professors have challenged me. They’ve stretched my mind and made me think about new things, which has given me the opportunity to grow,” said Lopez.

Lopez cannot imagine doing anything but nursing, and earning a PhD in Nursing has always been a dream of hers. “When APU opened up the program it was like God telling me, ‘here you go’,” said Lopez.

The program is based on 64 units of core courses and dissertation research seminars. Students are expected to satisfy requirements for the preliminary exam, qualifying exam, and the dissertation defense. Lopez plans to complete the program toward the end of 2008.

“I feel like I’m a runner jumping hurdles and I feel like I just jumped one,” said Lopez. Hattar responded by saying that no matter how high the bar raises, Lopez keeps clearing it.

“Many students who earn a PhD in Nursing become the shapers and makers of the knowledge base in the discipline,” said Hattar. “They do this through their research and through teaching and preparing the future generations of nurses.”

Upon earning a PhD in Nursing, Lopez plans to teach full-time at a university and continue research in theory and philosophy.