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The American Indian Students United for Nursing Project, or more commonly known as ASUN, was founded in 1990 through a grant from the Indian Health Service and is celebrating its 20th anniversary this month. The purpose of ASUN has stayed the same over the years -- to increase the number of American Indians studying nursing at ASU and the number of nurses providing care to American Indians. It continues to accomplish that purpose as evidenced by the 59 Native American nursing students who have graduated since the program began.

The program started quite by accident. In 1989, faculty Jan Pflugfelder was working on a grant to increase minority students in the graduate psychiatric program. Pat Moore, chair of community health division at the time, sent her an RFP (Request for Proposal) from the Indian Health Service for a program to encourage more Native Americans to become nurses. ”I took the RFP to Dean Janelle Krueger who was very excited and supportive,” Pflugfelder said. “Dean Krueger and other staff actually wrote the proposal with me since this was my first experience with RFP's.”

ASU was awarded the five-year grant in 1990 and Pflugfelder was appointed director of the ASUN Project.

ASU is one of five nursing colleges in the nation with the IHS section 112 grants. Other universities with similar programs but with varying names include Montana State University-Bozeman, University of North Dakota, Salish Kootenai College, and Oglala Lakota College. The nursing colleges are located in states with the largest American Indian populations in the nation. Arizona is an ideal location for ASUN since the state has the largest American Indian population of 300,000, representing 22 tribes. ASU has about 1,500 Native American enrolled students fall 2010.

ASUN seeks to support and add to curriculum material and clinical opportunities that focus on American Indian health issues. Scholarships, which include tuition & fees, required text books and living expenses, are available at the baccalaureate level. Post-graduate service is required for all recipients with the Indian Health Service or a tribe, increasing the number of nurses providing care to Indian peoples.

Bev Warne, BSN, MS and an ASU alumna, became the second director of the ASUN project in 2002. She brought a wealth of faculty and other related experience to the position from Mesa Community College. A member of the Oglala Lakota Tribe in South Dakota, Warne served as director until retirement in 2009.

Stephen Livingston, BES, an enrolled member of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians in Minnesota, is the current program manager of ASUN.

Learn more about ASUN.

From the ASU news.