First class of DNP students

Twelve new students at the University of Central Arkansas will leave a historical trail as they become the inaugural class in the Doctorate of Nursing Practice. The students participated in an orientation on June 2.

The all-day orientation allowed the 12 students to familiarize themselves with the campus, their peers and professors. The students took part in sessions that explained what they were expected to complete in the program and the resources available to them, such as advising and instructional development. President Tom Courtway and Executive Vice President and Provost Steven Runge were among the many faculty and staff members that welcomed the students to the UCA family.

The students that make the first DNP class are Callie Fletcher, Patricia Griffith, Laura Hall, Stacy Harris, Leah Martin, Rachel Myers, Lacie Petitto, Erma Storay, Amy Ramick, Frances Stueben, Lucy Wisemon, and Shannon Woods. Out of the twelve students, nine reside in Arkansas, two in Louisiana, and one in Florida.

The Arkansas Department of Higher Education Coordinating Board approved the UCA Doctorate of Nursing Practice program on February 1, 2013. Along with UCA, the University of Arkansas, Arkansas State University, and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences were also approved for the DNP program.

Student Lacie Petitto said she did research on a couple of programs that offered the program, and UCA offered the essential classes that she felt was needed to pursue her education in a short time period.

The Doctorate of Nursing Practice is a post-master’s degree that requires 36 hours. The two-year program is practice-focused, with the classes primarily online. The DNP students will be expected to participate in advanced clinical training and complete capstone projects.

Dr. Julie Meaux, DNP director and nursing professor explained, “While the courses are online, they will be working within their communities to design programs that should affect or improve clinical outcomes, patient outcomes, improve the workforce, or design programs to improve systems of care.”

Petitto, who has already received a bachelor’s and master’s degrees and is a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, said, “After meeting the faculty members face to face [today], I really feel reassured about moving forward with this decision because they were so helpful, so warm. They have kind of a southern-hospitality edge to them that makes me excited about pursuing this degree with their help.”

Meaux said that the nursing department was really excited about the new students’ arrival and that they had planned for their arrival for a very long time.

The first DNP classes are already in session, with two classes offered this summer.

For more information on the Doctorate of Nursing Practice program, go to


— Ashley Bronson