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WVU boosts nursing education to meet workforce demands with $2.6M grant from Bedford Falls Foundation

A group of nursing students gather around a patient and listen to an instructor in an exam room setting.

The WVU School of Nursing is expanding educational opportunities with $2.6 million in support from the Bedford Falls Foundation to help address state and national workforce challenges. (WVU Photo)

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The West Virginia University School of Nursing is boosting nursing education opportunities with a $2.6 million grant from the Bedford Falls Foundation to address workforce challenges within the Mountain State and across the nation.

The grant funds support coordinated philanthropic efforts by Bedford Falls founders William “Bill” Conway and his late wife, Joanne Barkett Conway, to increase the nursing workforce throughout the eastern United States.

The WVU School of Nursing is working to educate more nurses amid a nationwide shortage caused by changing demographics, greater demand for health care, a rise in retirements and other factors. The Bedford Falls grant to WVU will provide student scholarships and faculty support for four programs aimed at producing well-trained nurses to meet health care needs in West Virginia and beyond.

“Nurses play a vital role in the health care team and in our state,” Dr. Clay Marsh, chancellor and executive dean for WVU Health Sciences, said. “This grant allows us to focus on our land-grant mission of serving the people of West Virginia and providing top-tier training to our students.”

The grant funding will help WVU expand two existing degree programs to new sites. Later this year, the Licensed Practical Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program — the only one of its kind in the state of West Virginia — will be offered at the WVU Keyser Campus, simultaneously boosting the number of BSN-educated nurses in the state and creating opportunities for practical nurses to advance their careers. Additionally, the WVU School of Nursing is in the planning stage of offering its Accelerated BSN program at a new campus location in the state’s Eastern Panhandle.

The grant will also bolster an international nursing program with Arellano University, a private university in the Philippines that previously partnered with the now-closed Alderson Broaddus University in West Virginia. Program participants will complete their first three years of BSN education at Arellano University and transfer to WVU for their final year. The Bedford Falls grant will provide scholarships to cover the difference in tuition cost for students during their year at WVU, as well as faculty support.

The WVU Health System and other area health care providers have ample employment opportunities to offer these Conway Scholars when they graduate.

Finally, the grant will support the existing PhD program in Morgantown, significantly expanding available scholarship support for future nursing educators. Following graduation, Conway Scholars who receive a PhD will be required to teach for three years at a school within the region. Many are expected to continue teaching in the region thereafter, filling a need for PhD-educated faculty to replace retirees in the coming years.

“This substantial investment from the Bedford Falls Foundation will make a lasting impact for our students and faculty, as well as for the expansion of our programs,” said Tara Hulsey, dean and E. Jane Martin Endowed Professor. “The Conways have created a legacy of support for nursing education and the WVU School of Nursing is honored to be among its beneficiaries.” 

The Bedford Falls Foundation supports a variety of charitable causes, with a particular focus on nursing education. The Conways’ philanthropy in that area was inspired by a conversation Joanne had with a waitress about her struggle to afford a nursing degree and, over the last 11 years, the couple’s generosity has supported nursing education at 17 universities.

“With a critical nursing shortage nationwide, we are thrilled to be expanding our geography to include West Virginia,” Bill Conway said. “We look forward to this new partnership with WVU and to creating more nurses for a region that needs them.”

The Bedford Falls Foundation grant was awarded through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University, in conjunction with WVU Day of Giving. The 24-hour fundraising event, held March 20, raised $30.4 million from over 8,500 gifts. 



Senior Communications Specialist
WVU Foundation

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