Deborah Olson points to receiving her degree from the University of Hawai‘i–West O‘ahu in the 1970s as a pivotal moment in her life.
As one of the first graduates of the institution (then West O‘ahu College), it marked the moment where she fulfilled her parents’ desire for her to earn her degree.
“I took a great deal of pride in paying my tuition, going to UH West O‘ahu, and finishing my degree,” she said. “I grew up in an era, and it’s a little different now, but you were really pushed to have a college degree. That was the way you made it. My mother grew up on a farm and my father grew up in a small town, and they met at the University of South Dakota. College provided opportunities for people like my parents to see what was available outside their rural and small towns; to see the larger world.”
She acknowledged and valued the campus’ approach to increasing access to higher education especially in light of her situation then as a military dependent who was a few credits shy of receiving her degree when she moved to Hawai‘i. Her fondest memories include the camaraderie developed during courses with Drs. Ned Shultz and Dan Boylan in temporary classrooms located in Newtown Square Office Building in Pearl City.
As part of her appreciation, Olson gifted UH West O‘ahu’s Pre-Nursing Pathway with $250,000. The gift will address the program’s priority needs such as an Adult Male Gaumard Mannequin Simulator, zSpace software, gurney/bed, anatomical models, Portable Electrocardiographs, single use electrodes for use in electrocardiograph, 9-L wet spirometers and disposable mouthpieces, and will allow the program to increase the number of faculty.
“As with any new program, there are start-up costs involved. From space build-outs that require renovations, to the purchasing of the most up-to-date equipment, and training supplies to ensure the Simulation Lab looks as close to a hospital room setting as possible,” said Nicole Akana, Program Coordinator of Kumu Ola. “Therefore, this amazing gift will allow us to reconfigure the existing Simulation Lab and make the necessary upgrades to match our partners at the Nancy Atmospera-Walch School of Nursing (NAWSON) at UH Mānoa. These upgrades will allow students to be trained using state of the art equipment, and having the familiarity of using the same manikins, equipment, supplies, and workflow also creates a seamless learning environment.”
The Pre-Nursing Pathway was designed to address the nursing shortage in the state of Hawai‘i, specifically the westside of O‘ahu, and aims to develop and prepare scholarly leaders from west O‘ahu who are interested in improving the health and wellness of their community through a career in nursing. Through a unique collaboration with the Nancy Atmospera-Walch School of Nursing at UH Mānoa, UH West O‘ahu students will enroll in rigorous science courses and engage in hands-on clinical training opportunities in a variety of settings led by highly-skilled professionals. This dynamic academic experience will be supplemented with state-of-the-art simulation equipment that provides extended learning options. The program fosters a holistic approach through incorporating Native Hawaiian values and principles, as well as place-based and ‘āina-based learning. Public high school students may also explore UH West O‘ahu’s pre-nursing pathway by completing a course (HLTH 123) through Early College.
“It just hits a lot of things for me,” Olson said of her support of the Pre-Nursing Program. “I was brought up in an environment where education was huge. As an adult, seeing things, I have strong feelings about public education and access to education being more universal.
“Public health, or any kind of healthcare, is so important right now. And it’s not available enough, especially outside of metro areas. So I thought that was terrific.”