History of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences

Carrying The Torch
Arnold Gonzales, Ph.D.
In this mural “Carrying the Torch,” Dr. Arnold Gonzales pays tribute to ten important women from  our community who made major contributions to nursing education in the Coastal Bend. Nurses represented left to right: Melinda Gonzales, Sister Christina Bolle, CCVI, Sister Kathleen Coughin, CCVI, Dr. Bunny Forgione, Dean Mary Jane Hamilton, Dean Emeritus Ruth Bakke, Dr. Elizabeth Sefcik, Dr. Eve Layman, Dr. Theresa J. Garcia, and Nancy T. Goodman.

In 1972, a delegation of community nursing leaders led by Elizabeth Willis, Chairperson of Registered Nurses Education at Del Mar College, met with the first Dean of the College of Science and Technology at the University of Corpus Christi (UCC), Dr. Ralph Gilchrist. Their goal was to study  successful upper-level nursing programs in the United States. Concurrently the Texas College and University System Coordinating Board (TCUSCB), which is now known as the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), was conducting research by the Study Committee of Nursing Education. The report identified the need for increased numbers of nurses in Texas at all educational levels, especially those prepared for teaching and leadership. The results also indicated the need for an upper-level nursing program in South Texas. Graduates of the five associate degree nursing programs in the region who wanted to further their education found that the nearest baccalaureate nursing programs were 160 to 220 miles away. The majority of those who moved away from the area to go to nursing programs never returned. This migration left an even greater deficit in the numbers of available graduates. An application for an Upper-Level Nursing Program at University of Corpus Christi (UCC) was made to the TCUSCB. In July 1974, UCC was one of three universities in the state approved to implement the multiple entry/exit model curriculum designed by the Study Committee on Nursing Education of the Coordinating Board (SCNECB). UCC became Corpus Christi State University (CCSU) in 1977, joined the Texas A&I System in 1973, then joined the Texas A&M System in 1989 and was renamed Texas A&M University Corpus Christi in 1993.

Undergraduate Program. Undergraduate programs include the Baccalaureate Nursing program (BSN) and the Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences program (BSHS). The BSN program includes four track options: Traditional (Face-to-Face), an Accelerated track for students already holding a baccalaureate degree in a field outside of nursing, and two online options (eLine and eLine Military).  Following successful completion of all course work students are eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) for Registered Nurses (RNs).  The RN-BSN track provides baccalaureate education for the RN holding an Associate Degree in Nursing (and) or a Diploma in Nursing. 

The Baccalaureate Program for Registered Nurses (for RN to BSN students) at the UCC began on a limited scale in the Fall of 1974, becoming fully operational in the fall of 1975. Dr. Ruth M. Bakke was the first director of the Baccalaureate Nursing Program. The program was accredited by the Texas Board of Nursing (BON). Initial accreditation by the National League for Nursing (NLN) was attained December 1979, retroactive for eight months. The Baccalaureate Nursing Program was the first RN-BSN program in Texas to be accredited by NLN. Continuing accreditation was granted by the NLN Board of Review in March 1985. In 1990, the generic BSN option was implemented as a four-semester, upper-division nursing major. In 2019, with the assistance of a HRSA grant, the accelerated BSN track was revised to focus on interprofessional community-based primary care.

The program was re-accredited in the Fall of 1992 by NLN with full accreditation to 2002. With the separation of the nursing accreditation bodies from their organizations (both NLN & American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN)), the nursing education programs of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (TAMU-CC) applied for and was granted preliminary approval in 1998 from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). An on-site evaluation was scheduled in 2000. The baccalaureate programs were accredited in 2000 for 10 years and the master’s programs were accredited for five years, with re-accreditation occurring in 2005 and 2015. The next scheduled visit for re-accreditation is 2025.

Distance Education. TAMU-CC CONHS offered nursing programs in Laredo (graduate), Victoria (RN-BSN), Commerce (prelicensure), Weslaco (graduate) and College Station (prelicensure). These programs pioneered distance education technology in South Texas, utilizing Trans-Texas Videoconference Network (TTVN). Outreach sites supported students living and working in these distant communities. The use of audio-conferencing technology, fixed-image transmission, and slow scan videoconferencing soon eliminated the need for faculty to drive to these distant sites. By 2002 web-based computer delivery of classes was standard. The interactive high-definition distance education technology provided access to graduate nursing education for nurses who lived and worked in rural areas. The graduate program currently offers all tracks exclusively through web-based learning management systems.

In 2001, the CONHS received a grant from the Learning Anytime Anywhere Partnership (LAAP) and from the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE) for the development of an online nursing education track. Through collaboration between ADN and BSN educational partnerships, the eLine© delivery method was established and became operational in 2003. This modular competency-based nursing education method became the first online generic BSN in the nation.

In 2010 the CONHS received a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the United States. The White House and the Department of Defense has repeatedly recognized the program for its unique mission to fill two critical needs in our nation: a nursing shortage and civilian employment for military veterans. The eLine© Military (ELM) track, a competency-based online program with face-to-face clinical experience, facilitates access to obtain a BSN degree and Registered Nurse (RN) licensure. The program developed an individualized Prior Learning Assessment (PLA), awarding the maximum amount of college credit based upon prior learning from medical training and experience obtained during military service.

The eLine© Military nursing track at TAMU-CC was the recipient of the 2013 AACN Innovations in Professional Nursing Education Award.

Health Science Program. The Health Science program began as a minor in 1992 under the founding Program Coordinator, Dr. Claudia Johnston. The first group of students to complete the minor graduated with their M.P.A in May 1995. The program was approved by the THECB with the first cohort of students admitted in Fall, 1994. The first graduates completed the program in December 1996. Dr. Whitney Bishoff served as the first program coordinator and Dr. William Koprowski joined the faculty as program coordinator in Fall, 1995. In 2019 a Self-Study was conducted, in preparation for seeking certification through Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA) in 2020.

Graduate Nursing Program. Graduate nursing education was established in 1984. The program offered registered nurses the opportunity to expand their scope of practice in one of three specialty areas: advanced clinical practice, nursing administration, or nursing education. Students earn their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) upon completion of core and specialty course work in tracks now known as Family Nurse Practitioner, Leadership in Nursing Systems, and Nurse Educator. In 1996, nurses without a BSN degree were admitted to the MSN program through the RN-MSN entry option. The MSN program initially was accredited by the NLN in the academic year 1988-89. The program has maintained accreditation and is currently accredited by CCNE, with program review again in October 2025.

In 2012, the graduate program expanded to include a cooperative Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Science (PhD) program through a partnership with the Denton campus of the Texas Woman’s University (TWU). Students enrolled in this program earn their degree from TWU and members of the TAMU-CC faculty provide support through their roles on advisory and research committees. The first student graduated from this partnership in 2013.

The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is the newest graduate nursing degree in the CONHS. In 2014, the THECB authorized the CONHS to offer an online post-master’s DNP program. The first cohort was admitted to the Nurse Practitioner specialty focus in 2016. The Leadership specialty track admitted its first cohort in 2019.

Administrative Leadership. Dr. Ruth Bakke was named Dean of Science & Technology in the 1980’s and the BSN and MSN programs were chaired by Dr. Susan Nelson and Dr. Elizabeth Erkel. In 1989, Dr. Noreen C. O'Neill became the first director of the Division of Nursing. Dr. Rebecca A. Jones succeeded Dr. O’Neal in 1994. In 1995, the Division of Nursing became a School of Nursing, Dr. Mary Jane Hamilton was appointed as Undergraduate Program Coordinator and Dr. Claudia Johnston was appointed as Graduate Program Coordinator. Dr. Hamilton served as the Director from 2003 to 2004.

In 2003, the School of Nursing become the College of Nursing and Health Sciences. In 2004, the Convocation celebrating the CONHS took place and Dr. Hamilton was installed by President Robert Ferguson as the Founding Dean. Dr. Bunny Forgione was appointed Associate Dean and Dr. Karen Koozer-Olson was appointed Outreach Coordinator. Dr. Linda Cook was appointed Undergraduate Chair and Dr. Eve Layman was appointed Graduate Chair.

Dr. Julie Hoff succeeded Dean Hamilton in 2017. Under her leadership, the CONHS was restructured into three departments: Department of Biobehavioral Health Science; Department of Population Health Nursing and Health Systems Leadership; and Department of Women, Children and Family Health Nursing. The founding Department Chairs were Dr. Pamela Greene, Dr. Mark Reinhart and Dr. Christina Murphey respectively.