image title

ASU makes nursing degree more accessible to students at Lake Havasu location

March 16, 2023

Goal is to get students to pursue nursing career in community

For as long as she can remember, Ashley Schmiedeknecht has wanted to be a nurse.

But she got pregnant when she was a young woman, had a daughter and, well, her life went in a different direction.

As the years passed and her little girl became a teenager, Schmiedeknecht decided it was time to pursue her professional dream. There was only one problem: She didn’t want to disrupt her daughter’s life and leave Lake Havasu to attend Arizona State University’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation on the Downtown Phoenix campus.

The solution: ASU brought a nursing degree to her.

Schmiedeknecht is one of 20 students in the Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) program being offered at ASU at Lake Havasu. It’s the opportunity she’s waited for, and one she can only now access because of ASU’s desire to provide educational opportunities to students in more rural or remote areas.

“Phoenix is three-and-a-half hours away from here,” Schmiedeknecht said. “There’s no way I would be able to travel back and forth and do that. It's really life-changing for me.”

Schmiedeknecht is part of the second cohort of nursing students taking advantage of the one-year BSN program. Those who have already earned a bachelor’s degree in another field are able to pursue nursing degree prerequisites, and students working on their first degree can complete the same prerequisites.

Once admitted to the nursing program, students complete 50 nursing-specific credits. Havasu students also travel to the Phoenix campus at various points for simulation and experiential learning at the Edson College Grace Center for Innovation in Nursing Education.

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU News

Salina Bednarek, director of the pre-licensure program at Edson, said the impetus for offering a nursing degree at Lake Havasu was twofold: First, as in Schmiedeknecht’s case, provide a degree program to students who for whatever reason cannot spend the year at the Edson College Downtown Phoenix campus.

Second, Bednarek hopes the students who get their nursing degree in Lake Havasu City will stay in the community and address the nursing shortage there. A for-profit hospital in the area has an entire fourth floor that goes unused because they don’t have enough staff, including nurses, according to Jeanette Nangreave, a physical chemist lecturing in support of the biology and environmental science programs at Lake Havasu.

RELATED: ASU at Lake Havasu celebrates 10 years of community education

Jeni Coke, a member of the Lake Havasu city council and director of marketing and public relations, and physician recruitment for the Havasu Regional Medical Center, said the shortage created in part by the pandemic — the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the U.S. will need more than 203,000 new registered nurses every year through 2026 to offset the losses in a retiring workforce — makes it imperative to “grow our own.”

“It’s so vital in the world we are living in post-COVID,” Coke said. “Nursing and physician recruitment us unlike anything we’ve ever seen.”

“Having a nursing program here where students are doing clinicals in the local area will hopefully inspire some of them to stay,” said Carla Harcleroad, executive director of ASU at Lake Havasu. “If a student wants to stay locally for family reasons or personal reasons, it can be a really good fit.”

Instructor working with student on laptop in classrom

Nursing faculty member Mandy Kwon (left) helps fourth-year BSN student Hannah Meredith during the NUR 315: Nursing Research and Application to Practice work session on Thursday, Feb. 23, at ASU at Lake Havasu. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

An additional benefit for the students is cost. Tuition for a year at Lake Havasu is $6,500 compared to $12,000 at the Downtown Phoenix campus.

“That’s a selling point,” Bednarek said.

It was for Kassandra Nieblas, a Lake Havasu City native who got her degree in kinesiology and decided to pursue physical therapy as a career only to change her mind her senior year.

“So I had a meeting with my counselor down there (Downtown Phoenix campus), and the counselor was like, ‘Have you ever heard of Lake Havasu?’” Nieblas said. “I just laughed because I was born and raised here. Then they mentioned the nursing program to me.

“It means so much being able to get my degree here because I’m saving a lot of money. Not only tuition, but I moved back in with my mom, so I’m not paying rent. It’s really cool that somebody can get their bachelor’s degree in nursing here.”

Zane McLinn said the reduced tuition cost was one reason he decided to leave his hometown of Big Bear, California, which is more than a three-hour drive from Lake Havasu City.

“It’s more affordable than the bigger campus, so it makes more sense, financially speaking,” he said.

McLinn also was enticed by the smaller campus and class sizes.

“It’s very helpful for assignments and learning,” he said. “There’s certainly a lot more one-on-one with my instructors. It’s cool getting to know everyone."

The stories of Nieblas, McLinn and Schmiedeknecht bring a smile to Bednarek’s face. They epitomize one of the tenets of ASU’s charter: measured not by whom it excludes, but by whom it includes and how they succeed.

“My whole goal is to provide access to education, to anyone who otherwise may not have it,” Bednarek said. “And changing the way we deliver it, changing the locations in which we would deliver it, and changing the way we support students so that anyone who wants to be a nurse can be a nurse at any point in time.”

Top photo: Nursing Instructor Judy DesMarais works with fourth-year BSN student Tyler Howard in the NUR 315: Nursing Research and Application to Practice work session on Thursday, Feb. 23, at ASU at Lake Havasu. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Scott Bordow

Reporter , ASU News

image title

Manipulating molecules and minting chemists

March 16, 2023

Ryan Nangreave conducts complex research in a Lake Havasu lab, mentors ASU undergraduate students

Arizona State University at Lake Havasu is known for its picturesque beauty, access to outdoor activities and small campus feel.

But under its quaint façade, there is hard-hitting research taking place in a lab.

Ryan Nangreave, an assistant teaching professor in chemistry, and one of his students are conducting work on synthesizing novel molecules for production of non-natural proteins. Yes, it sounds complicated — and it is — but it’s got important real-world implications.

“This type of genetic engineering allows scientists to create new proteins with unique activities, properties, labels and methods for further conjugation to other molecules,” said Nangreave, who teaches general, organic, bio- and environmental chemistry at ASU at Lake Havasu, and was a postdoctoral fellow of ASU’s Biodesign Institute.

“This allows future researchers to advance health, medicine and cancer research.”

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU News

It's the seventh year Nangreave has engaged in an undergraduate research project. The goal is to complete the research and present the findings at the next American Chemical Society meeting in New Orleans in 2024.

What takes place inside the lab is superseded by what’s taking place outside the classroom — Nangreave is preparing undergraduates for graduate work and minting future chemists and STEM workers through his mentorship.

Just ask Aidanek Ruslanbekova, who graduated from ASU at Lake Havasu in 2022 with a biology degree. She said it would not have been possible without the guidance of Nangreave.

“I used to work on the Havasu campus at the office, but I quit my job in order to fully commit my time and energy to research in Dr. Nangreave’s lab,” said Ruslanbekova, who will receive a full scholarship at Tulane University in New Orleans to pursue her PhD in chemistry, as well as $33,000 to conduct research. “My research and teaching experience at ASU at Lake Havasu gave me the opportunity to be considered by graduate schools.”

She said her first day in Nangreave’s class was life-changing. He conducted an experiment with balloons filled with different gases to demonstrate the concept of chemistry.

“He concluded the lesson with, 'That’s why I love organic chemistry,’” said Ruslanbekova, who is a native of Kyrgyzstan. “His passion for the subject, I believe, is the reason why I have developed a passion for chemistry, too.”

Nangreave is now instilling that same passion in Cem Arkun, a second-year biology student. Arkun, who hails from Turkey, originally applied to a medical school in Italy but COVID-19 prevented him from entering the country. He applied to ASU and was going to attend at the West campus, but then discovered ASU at Lake Havasu.

“Havasu offers the same major, but I like the small-city feel,” Arkun said. “You really get to know the people, the community and your instructors.”

The latter definitely applies to Nangreave, who spends up to 12 hours a day with his latest protégé. In fact, they are like family.

“The drive to excel and success Cem possesses is amazing,” Nangreave said. “He’s in my office every day asking questions. He works with me with in the lab for 20 to 30 hours a week, even on weekends. He makes me match his passion. He pushes me to be a better teacher.”

Student in chemistry lab

Second-year biology student Cem Arkun gently mixes a liquid solution that will protect an amino acid structure in a lab at ASU at Lake Havasu. Chemistry Assistant Teaching Professor Ryan Nangreave is mentoring Arkun, who plans to pursue a medicine and PhD route to become a researcher. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Arkun said he has plans to become a medical doctor and the research he conducts with Nangreave is preparing him for that day.

“I don’t feel like I’m working on an undergraduate research project. I feel like I’m getting grad-level experience right now,” Arkun said. “It’s in the way he (Nangreave) treats me, the way he teaches things, the way he explains things. He is my mentor. I would say I am greatly benefitting from this experience.”

Nangreave said the feeling is mutual.

“There’s some downtime in the lab, and that’s when you really get to know your students,” Nangreave said. “They get to know me as a person. I get to know them and their background and where they came from. I exchange gifts with his family for the holidays. I view them as part of an extended family.”

RELATED: ASU at Lake Havasu celebrates 10 years of community education

Why students come to Havasu is no mystery; why Nangreave is there is a bit of a fluke. In 2014, Nangreave and his wife, Janette (a physical chemist lecturer at ASU at Lake Havasu), were in the middle of their postdoctoral work in Tempe when he received a call to teach a semester in Havasu. The prior instructor left in the middle of the semester to take a job at another university and a replacement was urgently needed. Nangreave was offered a position as an adjunct faculty member to fill the slot.

“I felt it was a good opportunity to get some teaching experience, but the idea was always to go back to Tempe, finish my postdoc and proceed into an industrial position,” Nangreave said. “But when I got up here, I thought it was paradise.”

The students thought the same of Nangreave, who were appreciative of his commitment to them and the job. When the position was posted after the end of the school year, students begged Nangreave to apply. They also applied pressure on then-director David Young to hire Nangreave. Young listened to his students and tendered the job offer to Nangreave when he submitted his application. Nangreave called his wife and asked her to leave her position at the Biodesign Institute, where she ran the lab — not a small ask. They moved their family from Chandler, Arizona, to Lake Havasu City in 2015 and never looked back.

ASU at Lake Havasu Executive Director Carla Harcleroad said she’s glad the Nangreaves made the campus their new home.

“Ryan and Jeanette Nangreave embody the best of ASU at Lake Havasu, and they continue to help shape this location,” Harcleroad said. “Their commitment to student success, their colleagues and ASU is inspiring, and their community engagement in STEM education is admirable. I can’t wait to see what they do next on campus and in Lake Havasu City.”

Nangreave’s next move is to simply stay put… and continue to inspire students.

“After my third year teaching at this position, I received a job offer to teach at my alma mater back East,” Nangreave admitted. “It was a great job offer and I talked it over with my wife and my children. But we all agreed that Lake Havasu is our home now.

“I’m exactly where I should be.” 

Top photo: Second-year biology student Cem Arkun uses a pipette to add a chemical mixture to his experiment designed to protect an amino acid structure in a lab at ASU at Lake Havasu. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News