Awarding Cultural Diversity Grants: Helping to Open the World
Anderson, Peggy H.
Palmer, Sheri P.
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Session presented on Thursday, September 25, 2014, and Wednesday, September 24, 2014: Approximately 75% of our Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI) student members participate in a travel study program with our College of Nursing. Participation in the program generates diversified experiences within our chapter membership. A need for financial assistance by many of the travel study students prompted a response from our STTI chapter. Our board contemplated various ways to support students. As a result, the decision to award Cultural Diversity grants to five students each year was implemented. The following objectives were foundational to our decision: 1) promote the name of STTI in furthering scholarship, 2) provide financial assistance to students participating in the travel study program, 3) improve cultural awareness within the nursing profession, and 4) create an opportunity for grant awardees to share cultural diversity experiences within a STTI venue. The STTI mission of making a difference in health throughout the world pairs well with our College of Nursing mission. Increasing STTI visibility within our college is needed. Emphasizing common ideals between our college and STTI is one way to improve understanding regarding the STTI vision and mission. Sponsoring cultural diversity grants has provided an additional method of showcasing the benefits of, and promoting membership within STTI. With the average cost of a study abroad experience being around $3000, students are often stretched financially. Many of our students scrimp and save in order to participate in the travel study program and experience nursing care in another culture or country. Part of the application for the cultural diversity grant requires an explanation of financial need. The STTI board also consults with our nursing advisement center for further information as necessary to determine true financial need. One student stated in his application, My wife and I first decided that I should go on this trip to Ecuador back in October. Things changed somewhat as we found out we were pregnant later that month. The anticipation of a new baby changed our financial plans. As one can expect, there are many extra expenses that come with a wife who is 6 months pregnant. The total cost of the trip is $2,900 which has been very difficult to pay but my wife and I have struggled and worked hard in order to pay this cost. This [grant] would be a welcomed relief to me and my wife (and our little girl). Supporting learning, knowledge and professional development in nurses is enhanced with an understanding of culture and its influence on society and healthcare. Participation with the travel study program is one way we improve cultural awareness and give back to society by developing nurses who can understand and provide holistic care in all situations. Regarding the travel study experience, one student stated, By traveling and practicing nursing throughout Taiwan, I feel like I will become one step closer to understanding other cultures around me. I am excited to be immersed in the all of the traditions, ceremonies, food, dances, and other aspects of the Taiwanese. While learning about this culture from first-hand experience, I can become familiar with practicing nursing [within] a different population. Students who are awarded the grants are often excited to present about their cultural experiences. Annual STTI induction meetings are a prime venue for such presentations to take place. Multiple students have presented at induction and new inductees frequently comment that their presentations are a highlight of the evening. Students have also shared their experiences in venues such as Sigma Theta Tau conferences, and other professional organization meetings and conferences. Through travel study presentations, STTI members observe peers and colleagues as they share learning and incorporate the mission of STTI into their experiences. In summary, we have successfully incorporated Cultural Diversity Grants as a means to promote STTI within our college of nursing.