Graduate Council Advisory Committee
Hill University Center, room 325
Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Members present: Puri Bangalore, Alan Eberhardt, Douglas Ayers with new ADCOM member Ken Miller, Kyle Grimes, Lynn Kirkland, Bryan Noe, Susan Rich, Cecilia Graham, David Vance, Steven Pittle

Staff: Thomas Harris, Susan Banks, Cyndi Ballinger

Guests: Drs. Doreen Harper, Karen Meneses

The meeting began with the introduction of guests and ADCOM members.

Action Item:

Review of a proposal from the School of Nursing to convert the previously awarded Doctor of Science in Nursing (DSN) degrees retroactively to Ph.D. degrees. Drs. Doreen Harper and Karen Meneses presented and defended the proposal. Part of the rationale for the proposal results from confusion regarding the requirements for various nursing degrees. During the mid 60’s, nursing became established as its own discipline but for a number of reasons, Nursing Schools were unable to establish a PhD degree at that time. The earliest schools of Nursing that moved to establish research based doctoral level degree programs started by offering DNSC, DNS, or DSN degrees. UAB Nursing was one of the first twelve schools in the country which initiated a research based doctoral degree in nursing, the DSN. UAB SON is also the first in the south/southeast to offer a doctorate program in nursing and, as a result, has been very influential in academic nursing across the country. There are many graduates from the UAB SON who earned the DSN degree who are now in very prominent leadership positions. However, by the mid 70’s through the late 80’s, doctoral level programs began to grow in Nursing. The scientific knowledge in the discipline also grew and most of the new doctoral level programs were developed as PhD programs. There are now about 136 research based doctoral programs in nursing in this country; 133 of which are PhD programs. The UAB SON established a PhD program in 1999; it replaced the DSN program that was offered from 1975 through 2005.

Many of the UAB SON DSN graduates are now serving as Deans, Presidents of Universities, as NIH Scientists etc., and have asked if there might be a way to retroactively convert their degrees from the DSN to the PhD. There is a precedent for doing this; between 12-15 Nursing schools have converted their former DSN degrees to the PhD. Two prominent schools that have made this conversion are the University of California at San Francisco and Yale University. A complete list of schools that have done this was included in the proposal.  A review of the UAB DSN curriculum demonstrated that DSN students completed more course work and actually earned more credits than are currently required to complete the UAB Nursing PhD. Also, the DNP recipients completed dissertations that met the standards of research accomplishment that are expected of today’s PhD recipients.  Accordingly, the DSN degree is equivalent with the PhD and is distinctly different from the Doctorate of Nursing practice (DNP), which focuses on developing leaders/administrators in the clinical practice of nursing.  In fact, the National Academy of Sciences noted in 2005 that the DNS and PhD degrees are in fact equivalent.

As the DNP came on board in the early 2000’s, it became even more difficult to appropriately differentiate the DNS or the DNSC. Given the precedent of other prominent Schools of Nursing having made the switch, and the evidence that the DSN is basically equivalent to the PhD, the UAB SON is asking for the ability to convert 376 DSN degrees to retroactively to the PhD. The switch will only happen for those who are interested in having it changed; the switch will not be forced on all DSN holders.

Committee members asked what are the specific mechanisms of converting the degrees would include.  After Provost and UA System Board approval, new diplomas will be issued. Would the change be noted on each DSN recipient’s transcript?  That remains to be determined. Committee members suggested that potential employers may want to see the degree recipients’ transcripts to verify.  Dr. Harper will contact colleagues at schools where the switch was made to determine if the change was noted on the degree recipients’ transcripts.

Committee members asked if the original degree date will be kept, or will a new date be issued? The degree dates will not be changed.  What is the cost associated with the switch? The only cost will be that of printing/mailing a new transcript or diploma.  Is there any interest in not converting among the original DNS recipients? Yes, the switch will be made only for those who request that the change be made. The UAB SON stays in touch with all DSN alumni; each will be contacted and given the option.  

ADCOM members moved to approve the request, and the motion was seconded. After further discussion the membership voted unanimously to approve the proposal.

Information Items:

  1. Discussion regarding items in the outside review of the Graduate School Org
  2. Huron recommendation that the Graduate School provide a “live” orientation for new students
  3. Huron recommendation that the Graduate School create a “Graduate Services Support Center”

The meeting adjourned at 5:30 p.m.