Monday, March 5, 2007

Step #2: Letter to President of Marquette University, Father Wild

March 5, 2007

Robert A. Wild, S.J.
Office of the President
Marquette University
P.O. Box 1881
Milwaukee, WI 53201

Dear Father Wild:

I would like to bring to your attention some irregularities relating to Marquette University’s Direct-Entry nursing program.

Let me begin by briefly telling you my story. I graduated from Chatham College in 1999 with a B.A. in Mathematics and English Literature, Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa. I was a member of the 6th cohort of the Direct-Entry nursing program at Marquette University (2004-2005). When I began the program I fully intended to complete the full three years. About half way through the first 15 months, the RN portion of the program, I became engaged. At that time my fiancĂ© was in his last year at an Episcopal seminary, and he was obligated to return to serve in his home state of Louisiana in June of 2005. He was assigned to a large parish in New Orleans and I stayed in Milwaukee until August to complete my RN, with plans to move to New Orleans with him directly after our wedding. On August 13, 2005 I completed the RN portion of the Direct-Entry program at Marquette, on August 20th I got married, and on August 29th my husband and I lost nearly everything in Hurricane Katrina - including my husband’s parish. In November I took state boards and received my nursing license in Wisconsin. My husband took the first job he was offered, which did not happen until March of 2006. This job happened to be in Mississippi.

When I applied for a nursing license in Mississippi my application was denied for one reason: because my Marquette transcript does not contain a graduation date. I am now in repayment of over $35,000 in student loans that I took out in order to attend Marquette although I am now unable to work as a nurse. My husband is an Episcopal priest in rural Mississippi and is currently supporting our family of three on only a few thousand dollars a year more than the amount of my outstanding student loans. The area we live in is also experiencing a severe nursing shortage crisis.

Mississippi state law regulating nurses states that one must graduate from an accredited nursing program in order to hold a license. The same is true in Wisconsin (Nurse Practice Act: 441.04). How can the Direct-Entry program qualify its students to become registered nurses, yet not award them degrees? When I applied to take the state board examination (NCLEX-RN) I filled out a "Statement of Graduation" form for the Wisconsin State Board of Regulation & Licensing. On this form my classmates and I were instructed by Marquette staff members to check the box for "BSN" and to list August 13, 2005 as a graduation date - yet there is no graduation date listed on my official Marquette transcript.

Either my Direct-Entry classmates and I hold BSNs with Marquette University, or we do not. It is unethical for Marquette to provide evidence of graduation only to those parties for whom it is to Marquette’s advantage. If my fellow Direct-Entry students and I have earned BSNs with Marquette University then our transcripts should list graduation dates. If we have not obtained BSNs from Marquette University then it appears as though the University is intentionally forging falsified "Statement of Graduation" forms for the Wisconsin Department of Regulation & Licensing every year for each Direct-Entry student.

Dr. Judith Miller, Associate Dean of Graduate Programs & Research, College of Nursing, has informed me that Marquette University has negotiated with the State of Wisconsin to allow Direct-Entry students to sit for the state board exam without holding a degree. I fail to see how an agreement of this kind can possibly be valid. The Nurse Practice Act clearly states that in order to sit for the licensure exam individuals must hold "a diploma of graduation" (441.04). Even the State itself is not authorized to make exceptions to this law without actually changing the law.

Marquette University should be ashamed for engineering this loophole to obtain RNs for its Direct-Entry students without providing a graduation date on their transcripts. I would have expected a Catholic University to behave with integrity. I contacted Dr. Judith Miller regarding this discrepancy, but she was unable to resolve the problem satisfactorily. If Direct-Entry students who successfully complete, or have completed, the first 15 months of the program are not granted BSNs with graduation dates placed on their official Marquette transcripts, I will take further action.


Lydia Bertrand