Bobcat nurse Fall 2023

From the Desk of the Dean

Happy autumn!

The Mark and Robyn Jones College of Nursing is committed to helping to meet Montana’s need for health care, particularly in our rural, frontier and Tribal communities. In this newsletter, we are proud to share recent innovations to our undergraduate bachelor’s and accelerated bachelor’s curricula, student achievements, recent research funding for faculty, and more.

I would like to provide you with an update on several projects which are funded by the historic $101 million investment from Mark and Robyn Jones. First, we are working closely with architects to design five new buildings to be constructed on each of our campuses located in Bozeman, Billings, Great Falls, Kalispell and Missoula. These new structures will allow the college to expand undergraduate enrollment from our current production of 300 bachelor’s-prepared nurses each year to over 400 BSNs annually by 2030. We will break ground on each building over the next 12 months with completion of construction anticipated by 2027. Each new building will have state-of-the-art simulation learning spaces, modern interactive classrooms, and increased areas for students to meet and study.

MRJCON is also planning a new program in nurse midwifery as a third option in our existing Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program. The Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME) is scheduled to make a pre-accreditation visit November 6-8th. Third party comments are invited any time prior to that date. If you are interested, please click on the link below.

As I start my 7th year as Dean, I am filled with gratitude. Thank you for being a part of the MRJCON community. Thank you for your support as the college grows and evolves to meet the changing needs of Montanans. And thank you for your enthusiasm for the nursing profession. Choosing to become a nurse or advanced practice nurse is an excellent personal decision for students as they embark upon a rewarding career. But it is also a good decision for Montana. Nurses and nurse practitioners are integral to the health of rural states in particular. The MRJCON truly is five campuses | ONE COLLEGE | serving Montana.

Sarah E. Shannon, Dean and Professor
5 campuses | ONE COLLEGE | serving Montana

Homecoming Awardees 2023

ALUMNI ACHIEVEMENT AWARD - Mikel Allen, Clinical Nurse Educator, Shodair Children’s Hospital

HONORARY ALUMNI AWARD - Ann Galloway, Former Bozeman Campus Director, Montana State University, Mark and Robyn Jones College of Nursing

DISTINGUISHED STAFF AWARD - Michelle Baker, Kalispell Campus Administrative Assistant, Montana State University, Mark and Robyn Jones College of Nursing

VALUED MSU PARTNER AWARD - Carolynn Sylvester, Financial Analyst, Montana State University Fiscal Shared Services

Alumni Spotlight

Dr. Jason Gleason, DNP, NP-C, USAF Lieutenant Colonel (RET), Board Certified family nurse practitioner

Dr. Jason Gleason was recently interviewed by the Montana State University Alumni Foundation. He was asked how the Montana State University Mark and Robyn Jones College of Nursing set him up for a successful nursing career. Here’s what this Bobcat Nurse Alumni had to say.

My journey into healthcare started in my high school biology class. Our teacher mentioned in class one day, “If any of you are interested in a career in healthcare, I’d encourage you to volunteer at the local hospital”. That sounded like a fantastic idea and it was an idea that changed my life and put me on the trajectory that I continue to live out today. I volunteered at St. James Hospital in Butte. I spent hours in the Emergency Department, truly on the front lines learning from heroes in healthcare who were providing lifesaving care to patients when they needed it the most. I also volunteered on the medical floors visiting patients, getting them washcloths to wash their hands and face, going around filling water pitchers, handing out snacks and changing linens all while shadowing and learning from nurses as they cared for their patients. This experience instilled in me such a profound appreciation for the work physicians, nurses, nursing assistants, administrators and housekeeping professionals do on a daily basis to care for all of us. Visiting with patients and hearing their stories, fears, desires and dreams really inspired me.

doctoral experience at MSU changed me - Dr. Jason gleason

After graduating from high school I attended and received an associate degree in science for nursing at Montana State University Northern in Havre, Montana. I then obtained a bachelor of science degree in nursing from Montana State University followed by a master’s degree in nursing from Gonzaga University as a Nurse Practitioner in 2001. Since then, I’ve been working as a board-certified family nurse practitioner in different settings. In 2019 thanks to funding by the National Nursing Education Initiative through the VA I started my coursework at MSU Bozeman working towards a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree graduating from MSU in 2022. The academic experience to achieve my DNP from MSU was world-class in large part by the caliber and dedication of the faculty, leadership and staff. They worked tirelessly at knowledge building and sparking inspiration both for myself and my fellow students. As a master’s prepared Nurse Practitioner who had been working for two decades some friends and family asked me, “how will obtaining your doctorate change things for you?”, “is it even worth it since you are already working as a Nurse Practitioner?” Obtaining my DNP not only changed things for me, the doctoral experience at MSU changed me. It transformed me into a better nurse practitioner, leader, and human being. It also empowered me with a broader set of knowledge, insight and skills to take on new, more complex challenges and hopefully make a positive impact and difference in the world. In addition to my work at the VA I am also a senior faculty member at Fitzgerald Health Education Associates/Colibri providing continuing education for Nurse Practitioners and board preparation course for NP students around the country. I will be forever grateful for my experience at MSU and all of the hard-working faculty, leadership and staff that made such a positive experience and career possible – they’ve all truly empowered students to follow and live out their dreams including me.

Professionally Dr. Gleason is a tireless advocate for stroke awareness and is nationally known for empowering and inspiring healthcare professionals and organization to build impactful stroke programs. Stroke is a health issue with profound personal and professional meaning to Jason. Below is a glimpse of that story including links to additional reading and details. From Dr. Gleason.

Stroke is a health issue which has profound personal and professional meaning to me. On July 16, 2011 I was getting ready to head out to work at our local Emergency Department. My wife Heather had just returned from the grocery store and was putting away groceries when I said goodbye to her. Our three boys, Brady, age 14, Carson, age 9, and Isaac age 7 years old were running around the house playing and filling the house with noisy banter and laughter. It was a perfect and ordinary summer day which quickly became awfully unordinary and would change our lives forever. Thirty minutes into my shift in the emergency department a colleague pulled me out of an exam room telling me that EMS was at home with my wife. My heart dropped and mind started racing with thoughts of “what could have happened?” Heather had a devastating ischemic stroke where a blood clot floated up to her brain causing a blockage which starved part of her brain from oxygen. Heather lived for 29 days before passing away in hospice at just 40 years old.


My family's journey with stroke started off with the most horrific, heartbreaking loss of our lives. My biggest hope is that something good can come from our loss and that through our effort’s lives can be changed for the better and in some cases saved. Getting my education including my associate, bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from MSU has set such a solid foundation in preparing me for this journey. If anyone out there is on the fence about going to college or who don’t believe that they can do it or that they’re not smart enough or that a college education isn’t worth it – I have to say that you CAN do it and that you and a college education are both worth it!

Top left, Jason Gleason at the VA; Top right Jason's wife (Heather) and his boys in southern California; Bottom right, Jason with sons Carson and Isaac at a high school stroke event; Bottom left, Gleason family with wife Heather when she was in hospice. (pics from Jason Gleason)
If anyone out there is on the fence about going to college or who don’t believe that they can do it or that they’re not smart enough or that a college education isn’t worth it – I have to say that you CAN do it and that you and a college education are both worth it! - Dr. Jason gleason

Community Medical Center donates land for new Montana State University nursing education building in Missoula

Community Medical Center has signed a letter of intent to donate land in Missoula for a new nursing education building to be built with a portion of a $101 million investment by philanthropists Mark and Robyn Jones to Montana State University.

“Community Medical Center is all about making communities healthier. There are many ways to accomplish this, and partnering with MSU’s nursing college will improve the health and wellness of our community today and well into the future.” - Bob Gomes, CEO of Community Medical Center.

bOBCAT Nursing Student Achievements

The Women’s Center’s 2023 Student of Achievement Award

Catherine Rogerson received The Women’s Center’s 2023 Student of Achievement Award. Awardees are those who promote inclusion and equality, demonstrate strong leadership skills, volunteer their time to advance gender and racial equity, and serve as exemplary role models for their peers. These students were recognized at the 100th Day of Student Recognition on May 5th, 2023.

Recognition of Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps Officers and Air Force Reserve Officers' Training Corps Officers, May 2023

  • Second Lieutenant Rebeccah Henry, Active duty, U.S. Army
  • Second Lieutenant Hannah Klang, Active duty, U.S. Army
  • Second Lieutenant Megan R. Johnson, Air Force
Left to right: Hannah Klang, Rebeccah Henry

Caring for Our Own Program Graduates

Spring 2023 BSN Graduates: Starr Allen, Maya Horse, Autumn Hopkins, Katelynn Moccasin, Molly Spang, Tanya Thompson
August 2023 ABSN Graduates: Ruth Robinson, Fallon Decker, Brittney FourStar

College of Nursing Study Abroad Opportunities

Students from the Mark and Robyn Jones College of Nursing will have three opportunities to travel abroad this year to learn about global health. Students who travel participate in an accompanying course focused on preparing for cultural immersion and culturally responsive nursing care. Students will participate in a variety of learning settings and contexts focused on fostering skills for intercultural communication, tailoring nursing care responsive to health beliefs, and building other nursing skills.

This year, undergraduate and graduate students will have the opportunity to study in rural Tanzania and rural Guatemala.

Implementing MRJCON Refreshed BSN and ABSN Curricula

Faculty in the MRJCON embarked on a major revision of the undergraduate curricula starting in December 2019 in response to new national standards and utilizing student and faculty data. Implementation of the new curricula began in Fall Semester 2022 and will be complete Spring 2024 when we graduate our last group of traditional BSN students in the former curriculum.

Students and faculty are enthusiastic about the new traditional BSN and accelerated BSN curricula! Some highlights:

“Having consistency between campuses and shared exemplars is very helpful.” - faculty member
  • Consolidated nursing coursework: Traditional BSN nursing coursework has been consolidated into four semesters (versus five in former curriculum). This allows students more time to complete pre-requisite coursework and still finish their BSN degree in 4 years. Accelerated BSN nursing coursework has been consolidated into three semesters (versus four in the former curriculum). Students start in Fall semester and graduate the following Summer semester. Our first cohort graduated in August from this intensive program, are successfully passing their nursing licensing exam (NCLEX), and are eagerly sought after by Montana employers.
  • 240 hours of simulation learning integrated across the curriculum: High fidelity simulation learning is integrated into every semester for both traditional and accelerated BSN students through a dedicated “sim” course. Student feedback has been overwhelmingly positive! Simulations enhance and reinforce students’ clinical learning during the semester by ensuring every student has the opportunity to learn both the common and the rare situations where nurses need to respond to patient needs. For example, during their clinical course on reproductive health, all Bobcat nursing students participate in simulations of a normal vaginal birth, a post-partum hemorrhage, and a newborn resuscitation. Students learn how to assess situations, critically think, make evidence-based decisions, and work together as a team. The simulation environment allows students to learn from mistakes and practice effective communication.
  • 630 hours of direct patient care clinical experience: In addition to learning in the simulation lab and foundation skills lab environments, students will receive 630 hours of direct patient care hours across a variety of settings (including ambulatory, chronic, acute and palliative care), populations (including children, childbearing families, adults, older adults, communities, and public health), and health challenges (including mental illness, chronic disease management, rural/frontier communities, etc.).
  • Focus on professionalism: Each semester, students in both the traditional and accelerated BSN programs participate in a course dedicated to learning how to be a respected healthcare professional. Topics include accountability, ethics, evidence-based decision-making, honesty, compassion, teamwork, integrity, and more.
  • Commitment to serving Montana: The new curricula support MRJCON’s mission to educate new nurses who are prepared for rural practice in Montana. In contrast to national trends, all Bobcat nursing students have a broad range of clinical experiences to ensure they are “rural ready”. In addition, most students have the opportunity to obtain clinical experiences in Tribal or frontier communities.

learning to provide culturally responsive care

The Mark & Robyn Jones College of Nursing is pleased to have the provision of culturally responsive care threaded throughout the nursing curriculum. This summer that thread was the opportunity for students to participate in “Culturally Responsive Care in Nursing: The Blackfeet Experience.” This 2-credit course is an immersion experience with both clinical and community programming hosted by Ms. MaryEllen LaFromboise, colleagues at the Blackfeet Service Unit of the Indian Health Service, and cultural content experts from the Blackfeet Nation. Ten students attended for one-week this summer with Great Falls faculty member, Teresa Shiner.

This whole experience is facilitating students leaping into unknown waters...reminding them to breathe and help each other negotiate the rocky path.” - T. Shiner

Students shared that the cultural immersion experience was valuable for their education and for their future practice for the following reasons:

“This type of immersion experience is valuable to learn about different cultures and learn about health disparities in different rural populations."

“This experience is valuable because there is no better way to understand different cultures. At times in academia, we are told what may be happening in certain cultures by people with no ties to them. This has happened a lot and I think it perpetuates stereotypes and misconceptions. In an immersion experience we learn from people with direct ties to the community we want to learn from.”

“This course exposed me to a side of healthcare and population of people I was unfamiliar with. Everything I learned on this trip will be implemented in my future career.”

“I worked with LPNs, RNs, physicians, NPs, and nurse midwives at the Blackfeet Community Hospital. I also learned from community health leaders including social workers, psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, researchers, and community health volunteers. I developed a greater understanding of Blackfeet spirituality, traditional medicine, and resiliency. I also developed a greater understanding of historic government policy and intergenerational trauma.”

A second cultural immersion offering is under development and will be available with Crow Nation during the summer of 2024.

educating nurse pracitioners to serve rural montana

The Mark and Robin Jones College of Nursing (MRJCON) Advanced Nursing Education and Workforce (ANEW) Rural Ready Nurse Practitioner program was recently funded for an additional four years. The grant funding comes from the Health Resources and Services Administration, which is a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. MSU was funded in 2019 and has received additional funding of $2.6 million over the next four years to education, train, and support future rural nurse practitioners in both the Family Nurse Practitioner and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Doctor of Nursing Practice tracks at MSU. The program is a collaboration between MRJCON and the Montana Area Health Education Center and the Office of Rural Health at MSU.

ANEW Rural Ready Nurse Practitioner Scholars receive tuition and financial support to complete their education at MSU in addition to specialized training to prepare them to the meet healthcare needs in rural Montana where 54 of 56 counties are designated as healthcare professional shortage areas. MRJCON Faculty Dr. Stacy Stellflug is the program director for ANEW and notes the importance of the program in attracting and supporting nurses from rural communities across Montana to take the next step in their education and become nurse practitioners to meet the healthcare needs of their communities. Through programs like ANEW, MRJCON is increasing access to health care for rural Montanans and continues work to fulfill the land grant mission of MSU.


Dr. Molly Secor was awarded funding from the National Institutes of Health for a project titled, "Determining the Impact of Menstruation Experiences on the Health and Well-being of American Indian Adolescent Females.” The main goal if this project is to understand how menstruation experiences at school impact educational experiences and health for American Indian girls in reservation communities from the perspective of students and teachers. Although menstruation is a universal experience for nearly half the world’s population, barriers to adequate menstrual hygiene, including lack of access to menstrual supplies, and inadequate time or place to change supplies, can negatively impact the lives of women and girls in many ways. Specifically, menstrual hygiene challenges for adolescent girls may impact educational achievement and attendance, promote exclusion from social and physical activities, and lead to poor sexual and reproductive health outcomes.

To understand these experiences better in rural, reservation communities, the project will conduct talking circles with adolescent girls and with teachers and other staff who serve students in school settings to listen to their experiences and perspectives. Findings from the project will be used to develop culturally informed menstruation education curricula and advocate for systems-level changes to improve educational outcomes impacted by menstruation in collaboration with tribal partners.

Dr. Secor’s project is in collaboration with colleagues from North Dakota State University’s Department of Public Health (Andrea Huseth-Zosel) and American Indian Public Health Resource Center (Ryan Eagle and Vanessa Tibbits), the project will partner with three reservation communities in North Dakota and South Dakota.

Dr. Molly Secor (second from left) and her research team.

MSU expanding biomedical research capabilities with grant from Murdock Trust

Congratulations to Dr. Elizabeth Johnson (MRJCON) for her invaluable contribution to this endeavor.

A new grant from the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust will support ongoing efforts by Montana State University to expand biomedical engineering research and education with an emphasis on developing new technologies to improve rural health care.

"This is going to be groundbreaking for researchers at MSU and the health care partners we want to collaborate with. It allows us to bring in our partners and have the research be tangible, so that we can move novel solutions more quickly from lab bench to bedside." - PROJECT CO LEADER Dr. ELIZABETH JOHNSON

The $429,000 award will allow MSU to create the Biomedical Innovation for Research and Development Hub, an interdisciplinary biomedical research project bringing together engineering, nursing and computer science to advance life-saving technologies and provide hands-on opportunities for students.

MSU's Bernadette McCrory, left, Elizabeth Johnson, center, and Laura Stanley on April 24, 2023. MSU photo by Marcus “Doc” Cravens

A connection for rural patients

Dr. Elizabeth Johnson is also developing a potentially life-saving technology. Her wristband technology offers a solution to connect rural patients with potentially beneficial clinical trials.

Johnson recently received a three-year, $750,000 grant to partner with Billings Clinic to explore ways to improve clinical trial equity in rural communities, not just through technologies like the wristband but by decentralizing trials so they could be conducted in rural facilities and include home visits. The ultimate goal is to make clinical trial treatments as readily available as possible throughout the state, she said.

MRJCON would like to welcome staff and faculty to their new positions in the College

Mariah Hill, DNP, CNM, Nurse Midwifery Program Lead

Jennifer Sofie, DNP, FNP-C, Graduate Program Campus Director

Kim Kusak, MN, RN Bozeman Campus Director

Cornelia "Cory" McKee, BNS, RN, Bozeman Assistant Campus Director

Shelly Hogan, PhD, Assistant Director One Community in Health and Associate Research Professor

Janelle Sagmiller Palacios, PhD, CNM (Salish/Kootenai), Research Associate Professor

Benjamin "Ben" Miller, PhD, RN, APRN, FNP-C, ACNCP, ENP-C, FAANP / Associate Professor, MRJCON Billings Campus

Carrie Westmoreland Miller, PhD, RN, CNE, CHSE, IBCLC, Associate Professor, MRJCON Billings Campus

“An invest in knowledge pays the best interest.” - Benjamin Franklin
PO Box 173560, Bozeman, MT 59717-3560 | Phone 406-994-3783 | nursing@montana.edu