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History, Mission & Philosophy

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School of Nursing History

The rich history Avila University enjoys is rooted in the Sisters of St. Joseph, founded in LePuy, France in 1650 to respond to the needs of society by serving their neighbors.

In 1836, six Sisters arrived in America and traveled the Mississippi River to St. Louis, Missouri and settled in a small town south of the city known as Carondelet. These women established several schools and were soon known as the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet (CSJs).

In 1866, six Sisters came to Kansas City, Missouri and opened the first private high school for young women, St. Teresa's Academy.

In 1916, the academy administration chartered the first private college for women in Kansas City, St. Teresa's College. The college offered a two-year program leading to an Associate of Arts Degree. Fifteen years later, St. Joseph's Hospital School of Nursing, also associated with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, became affiliated with the college and nursing students were enrolled in basic science and humanities courses.

In 1940, the college became the first four-year, liberal arts institution for women in Kansas City with professional programs in nursing, education, and business and was renamed The College of St. Teresa. The growth of the College of St. Teresa resulted in a move to its present campus in 1963.

In honor of St. Teresa of Avila, the college changed its name to Avila College. Seeking to serve a diverse population, the college became co-educational in 1969, and established graduate programs in business, education, and psychology in 1978.

Due to its continued growth as a comprehensive institution of higher learning, offering undergraduate and graduate programs, Avila College became Avila University in 2002; departments became schools or colleges and department chairs became deans. Subsequently, the department of nursing became the school of nursing and the department chair became dean.

In 1974, Avila became the first liberal arts college to establish a Sigma Theta Tau, International chapter—Beta Lambda. Avila and the University of Central Missouri created an at-large chapter in 2008. With declining activity and following much discourse, the chapter was closed in 2012.

Since it began in 1916, Avila University has been committed to excellence in teaching and learning in an environment that respects the uniqueness of each person and stresses responsible life-long contributions to the community. This commitment reflects the mission and purpose of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, who continue to sponsor Avila University. The university was initially accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools in 1946. The university has enjoyed continuous accreditation since then. At its last comprehensive visit in 2008, Avila University received continued regional accreditation for a period of ten years. The nursing program received its first accreditation from the Missouri State Board of Nursing (MSBN) in 1948, the National League for Nursing (NLN) in 1966, and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) in 2000. The program has had continuous accreditation since that time. In 2010, the program applied for and was awarded reaccreditation by the CCNE for the maximum time period of 10 years. The program is approved by the MSBN.

Nursing education at Avila University provides the academic preparation of nurses who contribute to the health care of those in need. This educational vision was made possible through the efforts of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet mission at St. Joseph Hospital (now St. Joseph Medical Center) and many others at the College of St. Teresa and Avila College (now Avila University) who valued the importance of academic preparation for nursing practice. The Sisters of St. Joseph established the St. Joseph Hospital School of Nursing in 1900 under the direction of Sister Irmenia Dougherty. This school of nursing became chartered in 1901. The development of the four-year nursing program originated after the close of World War II. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet recognized the need for advanced educational preparation for women in nursing and formulated plans to establish a department of nursing within the college.

Prior to September 1960, the college offered three programs in nursing: a three-year diploma program, a basic baccalaureate program, and a supplementary (continuing education) program for graduate registered professional nurses. In 1958, a decision was made to discontinue the three-year diploma program and to revise the curriculum of the baccalaureate program to enable the student to complete the requirements for a Bachelor of Science degree in four academic years. These changes took place in 1960. From 1970 to 1998 the Department of Nursing offered a RN to BSN degree. This program was discontinued due to low enrollment. Due to increased demand for a highly education nursing workforce, the RN to BSN program was reestablished beginning Fall 2012. The SON continues the tradition of excellence in nursing through its undergraduate curriculum which provides the health care community excellent, well-educated nurses prepared to adapt to the ever evolving health care environment.

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