James Madison University

Nursing Students Build Community From Within

By Sydney Palese

Thanks to the efforts of the newly formed Nursing Student Advisory Council (SAC), students in the Department of Nursing are not only immersing themselves in a professional and comprehensive learning environment inside and outside of the classroom, but are also reaching out to prospective students and building meaningful relationships with faculty.

The SAC was formed when three current seniors in the program – Lauren Vaccarello, Shannon, Benesh and Maggie McGrath – noticed that many incoming nursing students had several questions about what to expect from their courses and professors. To remedy these issues, they developed the idea for the council and made their proposal to the department over the spring break of 2013.

 “It was very well received,” Vaccarello said. “When the idea was brought up, Dr. [Cindy] Rubenstein was really excited because the nursing faculty had been thinking of a similar idea beforehand. It was perfect timing.”

Since its implementation last spring, the SAC has been encouraging a wealth of new programs to foster fellowship among students and faculty. In addition to potlucks and cookie exchanges held outside of the classroom, the SAC also acts as a liaison between students and faculty.

Dr. Cindy Rubenstein, the undergraduate program director of the department said, “Student input into the decisions made by departmental committees is extremely valuable. Our student representatives that serve on committees provide the unique student perspective that allows the department and BSN program to improve policies and curriculum to best meet students’ learning needs.”

One of the hallmark programs of the SAC includes the fostering of a mentor-mentee relationship between incoming students and students in their first semester of the program.

 The mentoring program is one of four focus groups within the SAC – the others include tours, merchandise and tutoring. Members of the SAC can choose to be involved in any of the four. Vaccarello said students in their third semesters are typically the most involved in the program and hold a majority of the leadership positions.

“Everyone works together to plan different events and come up with ways for the Student Advisory Council to be involved in the nursing department,” Vacarello said. “As you’re going through the nursing program, the SAC helps with leadership roles. It is helping students get to know one another, and faculty, better.”