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First cohort in graduate nursing program at CSB get degrees

July 1, 2024

The phrase still sounds a bit funny when Molly Sexe hears it out loud.

But the fact remains that she and the 11 other members of the initial Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) cohort at the College of Saint Benedict are pioneers.

When they began their studies in September of 2021, they became the first students enrolled in the first doctoral program to be offered at the school.

And, this past May, they became its first full graduating class.

“It does seem weird to say because I’ve never thought of myself in that way,” Sexe said. “But it is very unique to be in this position as part of the first class to go through this program. It’s a cool feeling to be part of something like that.”

CSB’s nursing program has been around since 1973, and has long had a reputation for turning out high-quality graduates. But it wasn’t until three years ago that a graduate program was ready to be added.

It produced its initial graduate last August. But this spring marked the first graduating class. That group is made up of 10 students on the Doctor of Nursing Practice family nurse practitioner track, one on the Doctor of Nursing Practice leadership track and three earning Master of Science in Nursing-Education and Leadership degrees.

Eleven of the students completed their undergraduate degrees at CSB and elected to continue to the graduate program. Three enrolled after completing their undergraduate degrees somewhere else.

“The members of this first group truly are pioneers,” program director Dr. Jennifer Peterson said. “It’s so exciting for us as faculty because we’ve had the opportunity to grow with them. We all learned together these past three years. They learned from us and we learned from them.

“I’m extremely proud of everything this group has been able to accomplish.”

Samantha Hamm, who was on the family nurse practitioner track, earned her bachelor’s degree from Minnesota State-Mankato. But her husband was a Johnnie, so she’d spent time at CSB and SJU and knew the reputation of the nursing program here.

“I wanted to find a program that fit with the needs of myself and my family and I found that here,” she said. “I was pregnant when I first started the program, and I didn’t know if I’d be able to balance this with an infant/toddler. But this program is so family-orientated. Everyone goes out of their way to figure out ways to make it work for you.”

Hamm is now hoping to pursue a career in family practice, pediatrics or OBGYN after welcoming her second child in October.

“I’ve gotten the chance to put in a lot of hours in pediatrics, OBGYN and family practice and that’s been the biggest benefit for me,” she said. “Because I’ve worked in more of a rural setting, I’ve been able to see and do way more than I would have been able to in the Twin Cities.

“It’s given me so much valuable experience.”

Sexe ’18, who completed her undergraduate work at CSB, said her knowledge of how the nursing department worked made it an easy decision to stick around.

“I had an amazing experience here as an undergrad,” she said. “I had great clinical experiences and I knew how wonderful the professors were. The structure that’s in place is so solid, and I knew having that foundation would increase my confidence that this was something I could do.”

Both Hamm and Sexe said their experiences in the program these past three years have been overwhelmingly positive.

“It’s definitely been a whirlwind,” Sexe said. “When we started in 2021, there was the pandemic. It feels like a long time ago, but it’s been such a wonderful experience that it also could have been last week. As a cohort, I think we’ve all grown so close. Being part of this first class is a bond that will bring us together the rest of our lives.”

“There have been some growing pains, as you’d expect with any new program, but I love the faculty here so much,” Hamm added. “I’ve learned so much from them. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.”

Nursing graduates pose after the ceremony in May.
Nursing students lining up for graduation.
Excited CSB Nursing graduate holds her diploma.