School of Professional Studies

School of Professional Studies

History of the Nursing Department

The Nursing Department at WCSU was opened in 1965 by Professor Eleanor King, who assumed directorship. She came to WCSU from Yale University School of Nursing.

The first undergraduate nursing class was admitted in1966. Two faculty members, Agnes Brown and Anna Ostopchuk, were hired to teach the first nursing classes. In 1968 Helen Mizer and Elizabeth Olsen were hired to teach Maternal-Child nursing and Medical-Surgical nursing, respectively. Then additional faculty were hired to teach the senior year nursing students.

The first class of eight students graduated in 1970. Classes increased in size until there were eventually 80 students in a class. Today, the Nursing Department annually graduates between 40-50 students, and the current alumni number is somewhere around 1300.

In the 1970’s, the Nursing Department applied for and received national accreditation from the National League for Nursing for a 6-year period. The department has maintained national accreditation since 1970. It was during this time that the first men were admitted to the undergraduate program in nursing.

Professor King left in the early 1970s and several faculty filled in as acting directors including Penny Camp and Lynne Welch. In 1974 Dr. Ruth Kohl, from the University of Maryland, was hired as the new, permanent director. Dr. Kohl, who was a native of Connecticut, had been the director of the Danbury Hospital School of Nursing before she left to earn her doctorate at the University of Connecticut, and therefore was well known in the Danbury community. Dr. Kohl was instrumental in the development of a degree completion program for registered nurses who wanted to continue their studies for a BS. The program allowed credit through examinations in several subjects areas in which a student had previous knowledge. This program has been highly successful as many registered nurses have enrolled and graduated from the program.

In 1984, Dr. Kohl retired and was replaced by Andrea O’Connor, who had been a Professor of Nursing at Teachers College, Columbia University. Under Dr. O’Connor’s leadership, the nursing department offered a Master’s Degree in Nursing with a clinical nurse specialist track, an education track, and an administration track. A number of nursing alumni from the undergraduate program enrolled the new program.

The Nursing Department received its charter form the International Honor Society of Nursing: Sigma Theta Tau, in 1988. Mary Ann Riley and Helen Mizer co-founded the Kappa Alpha Chapter, which continues to grow and be a contributing chapter in international nursing by promoting excellence in practice, scholarship, and leadership
The administrative structure of the department was reorganized in 1993 to be in compliance with the University’s structure of governance. The positions of Program Director and Chairperson were consolidated. Currently the Nursing Department has a full-time Chairperson and 3 program coordinators, respectively, for the MS, BS, and the RN-BS programs.

Barbara Piscopo was elected Chairperson of the Nursing Department under the reorganization. Under her leadership, the masters program was extended to include a Nurse Practioner track and the entire MS program was revised to the current 36 credits. As changes occurred in the health care system, it was necessary to make changes in the nursing curriculum both at the undergraduate and graduate levels. In 1998, the current BS program was implemented. Also at this time, the RN-BS track also underwent revisions. In the fall of 2000, the Department of Nursing extended the RN-BS program to include course offerings at the new Western at Waterbury campus.

In 2001 a 30th Anniversary Alumni Reunion was held in Irfan Kathwari Honors House. Approximately 50 graduates returned and shared their experiences since graduating from WCSU.

From 2001 -2003, Stephanie Golub served as the elected Chair of the Nursing Department. Upon Dr. Golub’s retirement in May 2003, Drs. Barbara Piscopo and Laurel Halloran assumed the roles as department chairs for the 2003-2004 academic year, with Dr. Piscopo assuming department chair, beginning the 2004-2005 academic year.

In April 2004, the Nursing Department received full national accreditation from the Commission Council of Nursing Education (CCNE).

In August 2005, the Nursing Department established WestConn’s Nursing Alumni Society along with assistance from WestConn’s Alumni Association

In Fall 2005, WestConn’s Nursing Program began the joint offering of an MS Nurse Educator’s Program with Southern Connecticut State University to assist in alleviating the faculty nursing shortages at the Connecticut Community Colleges.  Also in Fall 2005 the Nursing Department acquired two more nursing labs in Higgins Hall.

In April 2006, Dr. Karen Daley and the Senior Nursing students with assistance from Nursing Alumnus Christopher Paige traveled to a US military hospital in Germany to witness firsthand, the nursing care of US military victims injured in the Iraq War.  WestConn represented the first nursing group from an institution of higher education to travel to Germany.

From 2005 – 2007, our undergraduates achieved 100% pass rate on the NCLEX RN Boards.
In 2007, Dr. Karen Crouse was elected Chairperson.  Professor Debra Lajoie was elected undergraduate coordinator and Dr. Barbara Piscopo became RN-BS coordinator. 

In Spring 2008, Dr. Karen Daley along with senior nursing students volunteered with Habitat for Humanity.  Dr. Catherine Rice along with our graduate, RN-BS and undergraduate students participated in a community wide disaster drill in Bethel.

In Fall 2008, the Department hosted an accreditation visit from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).   The status on accreditation for 10 years will be determined by the Board of Directors of the CCNE in April 2009.

Currently we have 18 full time faculty members and 8 adjunct clinical instructors.  Our enrollments in our undergraduate, RN-BS, and MS in Nursing continue to grow.

Submitted by:
Professors Emeriti Helen Mizer, Lilla Dean, Harriette Tax, and Elizabeth Olsen
With assistance from Stephanie Golub, Ph.D., former Department Chair, Associate Professor of Nursing,
Mary Ann Riley, M.Ed, Associate Professor of Nursing
Karen Daley, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Nursing, Graduate Coordinator
Karen Crouse, Ed.D., Chairperson and Associate Professor

Additions by Dean Lynne W. Clark, August 2003, 2004; Barbara Piscopo, 2005; Lynne Clark, 2006; Karen Crouse 2009.