Friday, March 23, 2007

Step #3: Letter to Each Member of Marquette's Board of Trustees

I have not gotten a response from Father Wild or from the second letter I sent to Judith Miller that requested a copy of the 'special agreement.' It has been over two weeks, so I'm moving on to the next step. These letters should arrive at Marquette around next Wednesday - since there are 35 letters I can't afford to send them priority. It's hard to say when the individual board members will actually get their letters - it looks like many of them don't live in Milwaukee. Over three weeks ago I requested a copy of the "Statement of Graduation" that is part of my file at the Department of Regulation & Licensing because I had wanted to include a copy of it with this letter, but I have not received it yet.
Friday, March 23, 2007

Member, Marquette University Board of Trustees
Marquette University
P.O. Box 1881
Milwaukee, WI 53201

Dear [NAME]:

I would like to bring to your attention some irregularities relating to Marquette University’s Direct Entry nursing program. I will give an overview of the problem here, but additional details and documents can be found on my website:

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 us 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.

Dr. Judith Miller, Associate Dean of Graduate Programs & Research, College of Nursing, has informed me that Marquette University 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."

I requested a copy of the formal written agreement between the State of Wisconsin and Marquette University relating to the licensure of Direct Entry students from Dr. Judith Miller on May 5, 2007, but I did not receive a response. When I requested the same information from the Department of Regulation & Licensing under the Wisconsin Public Records Law I was provided with two letters. (A pdf file containing these documents is available on my web site for your convenience.) The first letter is from Madeline Wake, then Dean of the College of Nursing, to Wayne Austin, then Legal Counsel for the Board of Nursing, and is dated December 15, 1998. The second letter is from Mr. Austin to Dr. Wake and is dated February 1, 1999. In this exchange of letters Mr. Austin and Dr. Wake agree to interpret the intent of the Wisconsin Administrative Code N 2.03 to include progression from the pre-MSN phase of the Direct Entry program into the MSN phase to qualify as "graduation": yet Marquette does not actually graduate these students. This interpretation is absurd. The Wisconsin Administrative Code (N 2.03) and Wisconsin State Law (Nurse Practice Act 441.04) are both quite clear that graduation from an approved school of nursing is required for RN licensure in Wisconsin. It is obvious to any person who does not have an ulterior motive that the only appropriate interpretation of the word "graduation" in this context is "graduation." If Marquette University wishes to run a Direct Entry nursing program, then it is obligated to provide degrees and graduation dates for the students who complete the first 15 months of the program.

As a member of the Marquette University Board of Trustees I am requesting your assistance in procuring BSN degrees and graduation dates for Direct Entry nursing students who successfully complete, or have completed, the first 15 months of the program. Direct Entry students complete all of the nursing theory and practical courses required of Marquette’s regular BSN students. I contacted Dr. Judith Miller regarding this discrepancy on February 22, 2007, but she did not resolve the problem satisfactorily. Father Wild has not yet responded to the letter I sent to him on March 5, 2007. As you know, Marquette University is a highly regarded institution in the community. Intentionally engineering a questionable loophole in order to obtain RN licensure for its Direct Entry students without providing a degree or a graduation date for them is not in line with the Catholic values of the University.


Lydia Bertrand