School of Health Sciences
Continues Momentum with New Partnerships and Launch of Student Advisory Council

Written by Judy Tierney and Mary Thorsby

When we spoke to Dean Dr. Laurie Shanderson last fall, she and her team were hard at work finalizing plans to launch NCU's newest school, the School of Health Sciences. In January 2018, that vision became a reality when the School welcomed its first master's candidate into the program.

Dr. Laurie Shanderson Dr. Laurie Shanderson

Today, with a newly-formed Student Advisory Council (SAC) and accreditations and partnerships with highly-respected professional organizations across higher education, the School is well on its way to advancing future healthcare leaders to serve in our communities.

The School currently offers Master of Health Administration (MHA) and Doctor of Health Administration (DHA) degrees, and Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree programs are expected to launch in December 2018. The curriculum is designed to train students to work in cross-functional teams to enhance current healthcare systems and ultimately improve outcomes for patients.

New Advisory Council Gives Students a Voice

A Professional Advisory Council (PAC) – a team of industry leaders including executives, administrators, medical and clinical professionals – counsels the School on course content, as well as the skills and knowledge students will need to meet the demands of their careers. To complement the PAC's guidance, the School recently formed its Student Advisory Council (SAC) and appointed MHA student Richard Valdenegro as its first president.

"The ACHE's Higher Education Network was created to support healthcare management programs and their faculty, and it's a great resource that we can use to better serve our students."

—Dr. Laurie Shanderson

"While members of the PAC lend their expertise to ensure we're preparing students for the positions they'll hold after graduation, the SAC serves as the liaison between the students and the faculty and administration," explains Shanderson. "Richard will participate in our PAC meetings and serve as a liaison, sharing information back and forth between the school, administration, our consultants and students."

A native of El Paso and a graduate of the University of Texas at El Paso, Valdenegro spent 18 years working as an occupational therapist and then as a neurodevelopment therapist before deciding to further his career in his current role as an administrative director at Mission Trail Baptist Hospital in San Antonio. His ultimate goal is to become a chief operating officer for a hospital. Earning a master's degree in health administration is one of the requirements.

Richard Valdenegro Richard Valdenegro

"In addition to the flexibility, one of the primary reasons I chose NCU was for the interactions and relationships I knew I would have with the faculty," Valdenegro says. "I'm now in my third class, and I already see opportunities to further develop great relationships with professors and students, even though we are all distance learners. Leading the SAC is a perfect way to become even more involved and to ensure my fellow students and I have a voice in how the School continues to grow and to strengthen our feeling of community and sharing a common bond."

Valdenegro's first order of business for the SAC was attending NCU's faculty symposium in August. Shanderson says, "We thought this would be a great way to provide Richard with another perspective of NCU, as well as meet the staff, administration and faculty. In the future, he'll also attend our PAC meetings so he'll be able to bring information from those sessions back to the students."

Valdenegro is looking forward to encouraging more students to join the SAC by participating on committees that will be formed to enhance different aspects of the program. He plans to use The Commons – NCU's virtual student union – to create more opportunities for the School of Health Sciences students to engage with one another and faculty to discuss and share ideas.

School Focuses on Accreditation and Professional Partnerships

Shanderson is also pleased at the progress the School of Health Sciences is making to secure its accreditation and to build its reputation in the healthcare field. In August, the School was invited to submit its full application to the Commission of Accreditation of Healthcare Mangement Education (CAHME), the organization that accredits healthcare administration programs.

The School is also now part of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), and it has achieved associate graduate status with Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA).

"The ACHE's Higher Education Network was created to support healthcare management programs and their faculty, and it's a great resource that we can use to better serve our students," says Shanderson. "As part of the AUPHA, we have established the Upsilon Delta Honor Society for healthcare management, which is open to students in the health administration programs."

"In addition to the flexibility, one of the primary reasons I chose NCU was for the interactions and relationships I knew I would have with the faculty."

—Richard Valdenegro

Shanderson and Dr. Whitney Jones, the School MHA program director, also serve as moderators for the AUPHA's interprofessional education (IPE) forum. "IPE is a critical component of our School and for the field," explains Shanderson. "We requested that this forum be developed, and based on our reputation it was fast tracked for approval."

They held their first session at the organization's annual meeting in June in a room filled to capacity.

Although the School is still in its early stages, Shanderson and her team are dedicated to proactively making a difference both within the program as well as in the professional community.

"We've been very intentional about the content and the course materials we've created, as well as the relationships we are building," Shanderson says. "We've put so much caring, attention and deliberate focus on making sure that we are producing a quality program that is well respected and that gives students the skills they need to be successful."

Please visit the NCU website for additional information about NCU's School of Health Sciences.