A new associate of science in nursing (ASN) program at Minnesota State College Southeast (MSC Southeast) was recently approved by the Minnesota Board of Nursing, and students may begin taking prerequisite courses for the program this fall.

The aim of the program is to get students ready for taking the NCLEX-RN exam, which will allow them to become registered nurses (RNs). “We’re just excited to offer the program so people can graduate with a livable, workable income to support their families and our communities,” MSC Southeast Associate Dean of Nursing Janine Mason said.

The program complements the college’s other health programs, such as radiography and medical lab technician programs, MSC Southeast Interim President Larry Lundblad stated, and it is valuable for students who wish to earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. It is also beneficial for potential employers, he added. “It certainly will provide graduates for various health systems … they’re all looking for RNs, and this will be another source of employees,” Lundblad said.

Director of Inpatient Services at Winona Health Kris Cichon said the program will allow community members to receive a college-level education in nursing and complete their clinical experiences at hospitals and other medical facilities locally. “It’s just a really great opportunity, truly, for local community members to stay local, within their area, to get that higher education … and to be able to utilize their skills to take care of their fellow community members,” Cichon noted.

Winona Health has not experienced problems with finding qualified candidates for nursing positions, Cichon explained, and the MSC Southeast program “will just enhance our ability to get outstanding candidates locally,” she said.

The program will take place over five semesters. Students will start with two semesters of general education classes, such as biology, chemistry, psychology and communications. They will initially be heath science broad field majors. They will apply to the ASN program in their second semester of general education classes. Their general education coursework will be considered as part of their applications.

They will keep taking general education classes as their applications are considered. Students who are admitted to the program will take three semesters of nursing classes. Students will first be accepted to the program in fall 2021.

Part of their coursework will be clinical experiences at hospitals and care facilities in the area. Students will also learn through virtual simulations, simulations with the college’s mannequins and labs. They will take other general education classes as well.

Students may go on to earn a bachelor’s of science in nursing degree at Winona State University (WSU). They would apply to WSU if they choose to study there. While learning at MSC Southeast, they would receive guidance from WSU advisors.

MSC Southeast is also working toward having the program nationally accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). The college’s goal is to have the accreditation finished before the first group of admitted students graduates. The college’s practical nursing diploma is currently accredited by ACEN. The application process may take about a year or a year and a half, Mason said.

The application process for receiving approval from the Minnesota Board of Nursing took about a year and a half and entailed developing curriculum, securing locations at which students could complete their clinical experiences and taking board representatives on a virtual tour of the MSC Southeast campus.

“It was truly all hands on deck,” Mason shared. “It was an effort with our administrators and faculty and staff … along with our clinical partners. Our clinical partners are as equally committed to the program, so it’s exciting to share that news with them and know we can work on this together going forward.”

The college announced in December 2017 that it would voluntarily suspend a previous professional nursing, or two-year associate degree in nursing (ADN), program at the conclusion of the spring 2019 semester due to not meeting a Minnesota Board of Nursing requirement that at least 75 percent of students pass the NCLEX-RN exam the first time they take it. Mason noted that she was not present during that program, and she would prefer to discuss the new program.

More information about the ASN program may be found at