Although The Nurses Educational Funds Inc. officially was formed in the 1950s, the scholarships it offers have been around for more than 100 years. The Isabel McIsaac Memorial Award and the Isabel Hampton Robb Memorial Award were established in 1910 and 1914, respectively, for nurses seeking higher education.
In October 2012, the organization recognized those first scholarships with a centennial celebration at the Griffis Faculty Club at Weill Cornell Medical College.
More than 50 board members and guests attended “Honoring Our Past — Funding Our Future,” according to Susan Bowar-Ferres, RN, PhD, NEA-BC, president of NEF, adjunct professor, NYU College of Nursing, and professor of nursing and nursing administration, NYU School of Medicine.
Nursing school deans, CNOs, faculty, former NEF scholars and NEF board members were among the guests in attendance at the anniversary celebration.
“Many attendees had not seen each other for years, or had not previously met, making this a noteworthy, joyous networking event,” Bowar-Ferres said.
The event highlighted the recipients of the original scholarships and those who have been chosen since.
Bowar-Ferres said a history of the organization was provided by NEF Scholar, board member and nursing historian M. Louise Fitzpatrick, RN, PhD, EdD, FAAN, dean of the College of Nursing at Villanova (Pa.) University.
Thelma Schorr, RN, BSN, FAAN, a longtime board member, spoke about “the days when the AJN Company generously housed NEF, providing a host of free services,” Bowar-Ferres said.
According to its website, NEF supports nursing professionals who are motivated to seek graduate degrees.
“It’s a volunteer-run organization whose sole mission is to raise money and distribute graduate scholarships for BSN-prepared nurses seeking academic advancement in education, research or practice,” Bowar-Ferres said. “The organization started in 1912 at Teachers College of Columbia University, so it has deep roots in the (New York) metropolitan area, but it has become national on the basis of the dispersion of NEF Scholars, who are international and diverse in composition.”
The scholarships or awards presented are named for, or endowed by, some of the profession’s most influential leaders and organizations and have ranged from $1,000 to $10,000 in recent years, Bowar-Ferres said. Scholars are enrolled in nursing-designated, advanced-degree programs for specific practice areas, such as nursing education (doctoral), nursing research or public health. There are also awards designated for certain ethnicities, such as the M. Elizabeth Carnegie African American Memorial Award. To date, more than 1,000 scholarships have been awarded, including the 18 recipients of the 2012-2013 awards.
The organization, according to Bowar-Ferres, looks for bright, motivated and dedicated nurses who are focused on contributions to the profession as educators, researchers and providers in nursing administration or advanced practice leadership positions.
“The intent of the applicant and potential to both succeed academically, as well as professionally, are the key ingredients,” she said.
One such nurse is Nancy Roecklein RN, MS, ANP-BC, OCN, a 2010-2011 master’s nursing scholarship recipient, who is enrolled in the City University of New York Graduate Center PhD nursing doctoral program. Before receiving the scholarship, Roecklein said she was trying to juggle her master’s continuing education costs at NYU and those of her college-aged sons.
Roecklein, who works as a clinical specialty nurse coordinator at Mount Sinai Hospital, Manhattan, and per diem in the ambulatory medical oncology unit at Montefiore Medical Center’s Einstein Campus in the Bronx, said she was apprehensive about being chosen because she had not published or presented any academic work before applying.
Still, she was confident the NEF would support the dreams of — as she put it — a “fledgling nurse scientist.” Roecklein also said she was worried about the burden of repaying student loans.
“The NEF scholarship money relieved me of a portion of those worries,” she said. “More important, perhaps, was the deep sense of encouragement and validation that I felt as a nursing scholar upon learning that I had been awarded the scholarship.”
Roecklein is no longer an unpublished fledgling scientist. She published her first article, “Using Standardized Nursing Languages in End-of-Life Care Plans,” in the October 2012 edition of the International Journal of Nursing Knowledge and presented a poster of the case study at the Nursing Economic$ journal summit in Washington, D.C.
A major benefit of an NEF scholarship, she said, is that “it connects you to current and future leaders of nursing.”
Tracey Boyd is a regional reporter.
LEARN MORE online by visiting N-E-F.org.