hen Danyelle Tate walked across the
stage in Cavalier Arena July 25, 2013, she helped
Darton State College make history.
Tate, a student from Macon, Ga., was one
of 17 students at that night’s commencement
ceremony to receive the first bachelor’s degrees
ever bestowed by Darton, all of them earning the
bachelor’s of science in nursing.
“For any student wanting to pursue a BSN
degree, I would tell them to go for it,” said Tate,
who credits her training at Darton for helping her
to be a better nurse. “Now that I have completed
the program, I think more in depth when it
comes to patient care, such as using nursing
ethics. I would say that I apply what I’ve learned
in the program to benefit the patients, their care,
and their patient rights more effectively.”
Darton gained “state college” status in 2012,
granting it the authority to award bachelor’s
degrees in a limited number of fields. The
nursing program, which admitted 24 bachelor’s
students in fall 2012, was the first – and so far
the only – to win approval to award four-year
In the case of these nurses, though, their
“four-year degree” took them only about three.
For the inaugural cohort for the bachelor’s
program, all the students had associate’s degrees
in nursing from Darton, and all of them had
to enroll as full-time students to complete the
accelerated course offerings, a carefully crafted
plan designed to take them from associate’s to
bachelor’s in only three semesters.
Most of the students in the first cohort
worked full-time as nurses while taking the full
load of classes. Even though all the courses were
offered online, with only a few rare visits to
Darton’s campus required, some of the students
who started the program couldn’t juggle their
commitments to full-time employment and full-
The nursing faculty took notice. It turns out
the students weren’t the only ones learning
during the first year of the new program.
“We learned what worked well and what
didn’t,” said Tracy White Suber, assistant dean
of nursing, and one of the designers of the
bachelor’s program. “More importantly, we made
changes as we progressed making the online
classroom and practicum experiences work more
One of the first changes: Bachelor’s students
no longer have to be full-time students.
Beginning with the second cohort, which
began classes in August 2013, students had the
option to complete their degrees on a part-time
or full-time basis.
Teresa Goode, a nurse at Phoebe Putney
Memorial Hospital in Albany, was one of 47
students – all of whom have their associate’s
degree in nursing – admitted in the second
cohort, and chose the part-time route.
“I started off full-time, but I decided pretty
quickly to go part-time,” Goode said. “It’s a lot of
work, trying to do both (full-time).”
Goode and the other part-timers won’t be too
far behind their full-time counterparts. They are
expected to complete the degree requirements in
five semesters instead of three, still pretty quick
for a bachelor’s degree.
Beyond offering a part-time option, the