Established in 2018 with a $1.9 million grant from the Health Resource and Services Administration (HRSA), the University of Arizona College of Nursing’s Arizona Nursing Inclusive Excellence (ANIE) program has become a crown jewel of the College’s diversity and inclusion efforts.
Full-time, pre-professional nursing, Bachelor of Science in nursing and doctoral students who are Native American, Hispanic/Latino, first-generation college attendees or from a rural or U.S.-Mexico border community may qualify to become ANIE scholars. As scholars, they gain access to financial support and academic enrichment services, such as mentoring, coaching, individual and group tutoring, professional skills development and peer networking.
One of the program’s most valuable resources is its annual ANIE Summer Intensives, which are required for first-year, first-semester Pre-Professional Nursing students already enrolled at the UA and first and third-semester students in the BSN program.
Continuing our coverage of some of our exceptional Summer Intensive students, get to know senior student Samantha Chai, who expects to graduate with her BSN cohort in December 2024. And stay tuned for the next installment of this series, which will focus on soon-to-be BSN student Julian Grijalva.
Born and raised in Tucson, Samantha Chai’s mother is Mexican and her father is Chinese American. About to enter her senior year, Chai’s BSN cohort is expected to graduate in December 2024. She knew from a young age that her purpose in life was to help people. “I didn’t know how I was going to do that, but I just felt so strongly about that,” she says. “Some very strong female powerhouses in my life guided me to the idea of nursing.” She finds inspiration and challenge through the UArizona Nursing program and is passionate about furthering her goal of giving everything she can to her patients.
What piqued your interest in UArizona Nursing?
People always say Wildcat Nurses are a very special breed of nurses. I grew up here, so in the times that I had to go to the hospital I would talk to my nurses and a lot of them were Wildcat Nurses. I had such wonderful experiences, so I think that’s what really drove me. If I could be of service the way they were of service to me, that would be so special.
How did you get involved in ANIE?
I got an email from an advisor about ANIE applications being accepted if you met certain requirements, so I signed up. I honestly didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but it truly has been a life-changing experience in so many ways, and given me so many exciting opportunities.
What have been your favorite parts of the program?
The biggest blessing I’ve gotten is the friendships, the support systems. Every single person I started this program with is truly my best friend. They are the people that have gotten me through getting into nursing school, being in nursing school. It’s such a beautiful, caring space.
Tell us about your experience in the ANIE Summer Intensive.
This is my third summer intensive. It lives up to the name as far as being intensive. There are various types of learning that cater to the experience of a nurse as a whole but also focus on community health. We’re focusing on a self-care approach for modalities and methods and learning about alternative medicines and how those work with western medicine. We also have a critical thinking class that helps facilitate a community of friendship amongst the peers within the program.
And we have these really cool clinical experiences at facilities like Hacienda at the River, which is a nursing care home. We got to go into a memory care unit and get patient-to-patient interactions. Yesterday I went to a Banner Intensive Care Unit -- it was a special experience, because technically I haven’t learned the ICU protocol yet. That comes in third semester, but being able get these experiences is such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
We’re also able to go on trips. Next week, for example, we’re going to Flagstaff for the Regional Health Conferences. We’re given a lot of opportunities and knowledge in these different types of classes that we wouldn’t be able to get in a traditional setting. It’s special, too, that many of us are the people who are representing the underrepresented communities. Being the ones who have power speaking up for our people and having knowledge of different types of modalities, and being the type of nurse who will stick up for a patient if there’s a language barrier, or a cultural barrier. The ANIE program does a really good job of making us feel like we belong and making us feel not only that it’s our responsibility but our gift of being able to share what we know with others.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m such an open book when it comes to my future. What drives me is patient-to-patient connection. It’s funny, my mom is a kindergarten teacher on the south side at a Title One school, and she has such an impact on her community because she speaks the language, and she understands the culture. I’ve been so lucky to see that. I’m really inspired by the way she’s able to be somebody in her community that has done so much good and made such an impact on these children’s lives, so I would love to do something to emulate that – to be the best nurse I can be.