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Methodist College Awarded $1.5 Million Federal Grant to Work in Medically Underserved Communities

methodist-collegeNew Program Will Recruit and Educate Future Nurses to Work in Medically Underserved Communities

(Peoria, IL) — Methodist College – UnityPoint Health is the recipient of a grant from the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that will enable the college to recruit and educate future nurses to work in medically underserved communities. The $1.5 million grant will be awarded to the college over a period of four years and will enable the college to award scholarships to students who demonstrate a financial need, but also may be members of an ethnic or racial minority, or may be a first generation student.

“We are thrilled to be selected to receive this grant that will relieve the financial burden for some of our current and future students,” said Dr. Kimberly Johnston, president of Methodist College. “In addition, this grant will allow us to establish additional programs that will help support these students and ensure success in their nursing education.”

As part of the grant, the college will implement a Reaching for Innovation, Success, and Empowerment (RISE) Scholars program with the goal of increasing the enrollment and retention of full-time Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) students from disadvantaged backgrounds –including students of racial and ethnic minority — and increase the number of graduates working in medically underserved communities.

“Part of our mission at Methodist College is to meet the healthcare needs of the diverse population we serve,” added Johnston. “A key component is to educate future nurses who mirror that diversity, however students from minority and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds face many barriers that hinder their success including inadequate family support, feelings of isolation and discrimination, and lack of role models.”

The UnityPoint Health – Methodist | Proctor Foundation provided research and writing assistance during the grant application process. In addition, the Foundation approved $70,000 in funding that will enable the college to hire a program coordinator for the program, and to bring in a nationally renowned cultural competence expert to work with the students in the RISE Scholars program.

“Education is a primary focus area for the foundation,” stated Roberta Parks, vice president of the UnityPoint Health – Methodist | Proctor Foundation. “The RISE Scholars program matches our mission to not only support education, but to improve the overall health in our community.”

Funding from the foundation will enable the college to bring in cultural competence expert, Dr. Josepha Campinha-Bacote to meet with RISE scholars and Methodist College faculty. Cultural competence is the process which a healthcare professional continually strives to achieve the ability and availability to effectively work within the cultural context of a client.

“One of the requirements for the students in the RISE program is that they have to participate in 90% of RISE Scholar program activities, which can include tutoring and mentoring sessions, workshops, or additional learning activities,” said Dr. Deborah Garrison, vice-president of academic affairs at Methodist College. “Under the direction of Dr. Schwindenhammer, Project Director, the program coordinator will ensure that students are meeting those program requirements which will contribute to their success as nursing students.”

Along with scholarships for tuition needs not met by grants or other scholarships, funding will be provided to students in the RISE program who choose to live in the Methodist College Student Housing Complex. A goal of the program is to create a living and learning community of RISE Scholars with a resident facilitator available to provide tutoring, coaching, and support.

The grant application team was led by Dr. Garrison; and included Dr. Pam Ferguson, Methodist College dean of nursing; Dr. Teresa Schwindenhammer, Methodist College nursing faculty; Deb Disney, Methodist College counselor; Pam Schubach, UnityPoint Health – Methodist | Proctor Foundation grants administrator. Other support was provided by Dr. Keith Branham, Methodist College dean of student services; Angie Robinson, Methodist College director of financial aid; Melissa Earnest, Methodist College registrar; and many other Methodist College faculty and employees.

Applications are being accepted now for current and prospective students to be RISE Scholars.

Additional information and the application is available at

Key Components of the Methodist College RISE Scholars Program

  • Total Grant: $1,496,335; Year 1-$326,335; Year 2-4 $390,000 per year
  • Will be recruiting a cohort of 20 students
  • Scholarships will be for unmet financial need (costs not covered by grant programs such as Pell or MAP)
  • Minimum scholarship will be $7,700, per student, per year
  • Scholarship applicants must demonstrate a financial need/federal PELL grant eligibility
  • Scholarship applicants may also be: member or an ethnic or racial minority, or be a first generation students (first in family to attend college)
  • Scholarship applicants must also be in a good academic standing with Methodist College and be a full-time students
  • Scholarship applicants must be willing to participate in 90% of RISE Scholars program activities

Proposed Program Activities

  • Participate in a mentoring program, “The Hero’s Journey,” that will provide students with a mental model of success
  • Tutoring services and supplemental instruction activities
  • Living and learning community in the Methodist Student Housing complex, and a commuting and learning community for students who reside off-campus
  • Meet with faculty mentors/advisors
  • Participate in activities led by Dr. Josepha Campinha-Bacote
  • Other opportunities to be developed as program is implemented
About Methodist College
Methodist College is a four-year, private, non-profit college affiliated with UnityPoint Health – Peoria. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), with the nursing program being accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Established in 2000, Methodist College is a private institution located in Peoria, Illinois. Focused on nursing, health sciences, and human services programs, Methodist College offers academic excellence and baccalaureate degree programs that prepare students for a career in healthcare. For additional information, visit