University of Colorado College of Nursing PhD students visit the Anschutz Medical Campus at the start of every semester for week-long intensives. The PhD program is online, so the intensives give students an opportunity to meet in-person with their colleagues and faculty, and see campus.
“Intensives are definitely intense, and you feel as if you are drinking through a firehose,” Lukas Neafsey RN, BSN (they/he) says. Neafsey is a first-year PhD student focusing on Bio-behavioral Sciences. “At the same time, the other PhD students and faculty are so welcoming. I’ve already bonded with the students in my cohort. The faculty are engaging and transparent, and they clearly show you how they want to set you up for success.”
Neafsey is one of three Dean’s Early Scholar Awards recipients. The scholarships are given to first-year students, one from each PhD focus area.
Dean's Early Scholar Recipients Lukas Neafsey, Jodiey Bondurant, and Nora Kakati with Dr. Jacqueline Jones, Assistant Dean of the PhD Program.
“It means so much (to receive the scholarship),” Neafsey says. “It covers my first semester and part of the second semester. It’s a lot of weight off my shoulders since I’m also working full time as an inpatient oncology nurse (at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital).”
Neafsey, who identifies as gender-diverse, wants to eventually study primary care for transgender and gender-diverse young adults, while finding and filling gaps in areas that are under-researched around healthcare for the LGBTQ+ community.
“Not only have I been through multiple primary care providers, insurance carriers and the process of legally changing my name, but as a nurse I’ve noticed several problems within the system when we take care of the LGBTQ+ community,” they say.
Making The Decision to Attend the College of Nursing
Jodiey Bondurant, DNP, CPNP-PC/AC, FNP-BC and Nora Kakati, RN, MSN, CHSE, are the college’s two other recipients. They are both moms of two young children and work full time.
“I just picked up an extra job on top of my other job to make sure I can cover everything,” Bondurant says. “My husband works too, but it’s still a lot to go back to school. It’s an amazing honor, and it was a huge blessing (to receive the Dean’s Early Scholar Award).”
Bondurant is focusing her PhD on Health Care Systems Research. She heard about the program through a friend who earned her DNP through CU Nursing. Bondurant says she also met with CU Nursing Professor and Faculty Development Coordinator Gail Armstrong, PhD, DNP, ACNS-BC, RN, CNE, FAAN, who was previously the Assistant Dean of DNP Program at Oregon Health & Science University. Bondurant is currently a faculty member there.
“After meeting with her, I was like ‘I’m sold, I’m coming no matter what’,” she says. “CU is also part of the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education, which allows people like me to get in-state tuition.”
She hopes to use her PhD to focus on research, improving pediatric care, and teaching her students. “I want to teach students in a new and thought-provoking way,” she says. “I want to teach them to think for themselves and consider things outside of their comfort zone.”
Kakati works at Khalifa University College of Medicine and Health Sciences in the United Arab Emirates. She heard about CU Nursing’s program through faculty at American University of Beirut, where she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She was looking for a PhD program that would align with her career goals.
“I was intrigued, and looking at the field of Caring Science, this is the source, this is the place to be. Dr. Jean Watson established it, and of course the field is evolving but it really attracted me (to CU Nursing),” she says. “Hearing from faculty about how supportive it is here, and how well rounded of a program it is, and the guidance that you get, I felt that it was the right fit.”
Kakati considered applying to CU’s PhD program last year. She decided against it due to financial reasons and the program’s time commitment, and now, the Dean’s Scholar award is making her goals come true.
“I wasn’t sure if this was the right time for me,” she says. “But at the same time, I’m a lifelong learner and really felt I could do this. It was a true honor, and truly meant the world to me to receive a scholarship. It’s an amazing opportunity offered by CU, and a great motivator for me to pursue my dreams. It’s extremely inspiring that CU can support that type of motivation and encourage early scholars to pursue their dreams.”