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The University of Florida (UF) College of Nursing has created an innovative research and leadership program for underrepresented undergraduate students. The EMBRACE program—Engaging Multiple-communities of BSN students in Research and Academic Curricular Experiences—was created in 2016 and has continued to evolve to meet the needs of students and changes in education and healthcare. 

The central pillar of the program is mentorship and each participating student is paired with a nursing faculty member who best matches the student’s research interest. Students are expected to complete a research, leadership, educational, or quality improvement project with their faculty mentor and participate in monthly meetings. The framework of the program now serves as a model for other colleges seeking to create opportunities to advance diversity and inclusion of underrepresented students. 

Jeanne-Marie Stacciarini, PhD, RN, FAAN, a College of Nursing associate professor and director of diversity and inclusion, tells, “Junior and senior students who are part of the EMBRACE program are receiving hands-on experiences in research, evidence-based practice and leadership opportunities. During the monthly meetings, they also learn from their peers and from guest speakers, such as alumni who are leaders in research, policy or entrepreneurship, and also current students. The EMBRACE students have the opportunity to present in research conferences, be part of internal and external professional committees and compete for academic awards that acknowledge their work.”

The EMBRACE program takes an innovative approach to motivate students with a diverse background to think about their next steps and have the ability to see themselves advance as nurse leaders. Stacciarini hopes the program will encourage other nursing schools to develop similar diversity programs and believes that recognizing the dynamic shift in the country’s population will be at the forefront of creating a learning environment that welcomes students from diverse backgrounds.

To learn more about how the University of Florida College of Nursing’s diversity program has become a national model, visit here.

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