Lamar University’s JoAnne Gay Dishman Department of Nursing has announced that it will change its title to JoAnne Gay Dishman School of Nursing to better reflect the additions and development of educational opportunities over time that have elevated it to school status.

“When you think of a department, you think one program, one dimension. We’ve grown so much and we have so many programs now, both graduate and undergraduate,” said Cynthia Stinson, interim chair of the department.

“The change in status from department to school is a significant one,” said James Marquart, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “It is a reflection of excellence, hard work and growth. It is also aspirational – a step toward an even stronger future.”

“We are proud of the accomplishments of our nursing faculty and their support staff,” Marquart said. “It is also a testament to the success of our alumni who are filling vital roles in heath care in our region, the state and beyond.”

When LU began a nursing program in the 1970s, it offered only a 2-year degree in nursing. Now, the school offers much more: a bachelor’s in nursing (BSN), a master’s in nursing administration (MSN), a master’s in nursing education, and bachelors and masters programs specially designed for career-oriented registered nurses (RN-BSN and RN-MSN). The school hopes to add a Doctor of Nursing in Leadership and Management as well.

At a time when the U.S. is experiencing a widening shortage of nurses, LU’s nursing program accommodates numerous nontraditional students with its online programs and helps them become qualified to enter the workforce. Between face-to-face and online programs, the school teaches nearly 800 students.

“Changing to ‘school’ is something we wanted to do for some time,” said Stinson.

“This is an opportunity to show people our growth, retention and excellent pass rates. We are more than a department. We are really a school of nursing.”

Lamar University’s School of Nursing maintains a high retention rate of above 70 percent and one of the highest pass rates on the National Council Licensure Examination — well above the national average.

The university’s accessible and affordable master of nursing online program has been ranked 19th in the nation for excellence by the 2014 U.S. News & World, surpassing national universities like Johns Hopkins University, Yale University and Duke University.

“We want to show everyone what we are and what we offer, not only to community and state but to the nation,” said Stinson.