New School of Nursing Focuses on More Than Just Academics4 min read

Rebekah Olson (left) with her cousin, Elise (right)

Rebekah Olson has always known that she would someday pursue a degree in nursing. The inspiration for her future career began through her relationship with her cousin Elise.

Olson, 18, of Charlotte, Mich. and Elise were born within months of one another. It was when the girls were toddlers that Elise was diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome, a rare and potentially fatal form of intractable epilepsy that begins in infancy.

“For me, it was a learning experience when Elise would have episodes,” said Olson, a freshman at Concordia University Ann Arbor. “There were occasions when our parents or grandparents would be out and something would go wrong. I would have to remain calm and do what I could for her, even though I didn’t always know what to do.”

It came as a pleasant surprise, then, when Concordia University announced last fall that it would open a new School of Nursing, offering Olson an opportunity to pursue a degree in her field of passion, while still attending a Lutheran school.

Michigan’s newest School of Nursing will be housed in CUAA’s newly purchased North Building, less than two miles from the main campus. The building, which was formerly owned by the Cooley Law School, is undergoing renovations to be completed for the 2016-17 academic year.

Concordia’s academically rigorous program will produce high-caliber Christian nurses who bring a passion for patient-centered care into a wide range of healing contexts. It is the first new program to be added at CUAA since the university’s merger with Concordia University Wisconsin in the summer of 2013.

CUAA’s North Building, former Cooley Law School, resides on the corner of Plymouth and Green Rd. in north Ann Arbor

At the helm of the new nursing school is Dean Dr. Cindy Fenske, DPN, RN, CNE, member of Living Water Lutheran in Whitmore Lake, Mich., who joins the CUAA faculty after 32 years as a nursing faculty member at the University of Michigan. Fenske brings with her an intimate knowledge of the needs of the field, as well as an eagerness to implement innovative teaching and learning strategies.

“We have a tremendous opportunity at Concordia to precisely craft an innovative environment that will develop nurses who are ready to meet the challenges of today’s health care environment,” said Fenske. “Our goal is to balance curricular rigor with a passion for care, and to help our students fulfill their purpose and make a unique contribution to their communities throughout their careers.”

Olson, who started her collegiate experience at a different university last fall, transferred to Concordia mid-year and has started her nursing pre-requisites in anticipation of entering the School of Nursing program in the fall.

She said she’s already found that Concordia offers more than just her preferred academic program.

“There is so much that goes into transferring that most people don’t know about. I can’t even begin to explain how helpful Concordia’s transfer admission counselor, Kristen, was to me,” said Olson. “I wanted a place where I can be close and personal to people, where people know my name. I’m just a few weeks in here and it’s already been that way.”

Olson’s father, who is a pastor at First Lutheran, Charlotte, and her mother, a former oncology nurse and another of Olson’s inspirations, were also pleased with Olson’s decision to transfer.

“I am thrilled that Concordia now offers a degree in nursing,” said Rev. Tim Olson, who has been a pastor in the LCMS Michigan District for 21 years. “Rebekah has the opportunity to pursue her vocation in a learning environment that is joyful and offers genuine love and concern for students. I’m excited and fascinated by all that Concordia is doing.”

Not only will Concordia’s program expect academic excellence, but its faith-focused curriculum will also encourage students to minister to patients in a Christ-like manner, said Fenske.

The fact that CUAA encourages Olson to hone her intangible skills is just one of the reasons why the university appealed to her.

“Administering medicine is one thing, but taking time to listen to your patients and hear what they’re saying allows you to figure out what’s really wrong so that you can help them best,” Olson said. “I know that I will be able to help people in some of their worst times, and that might even mean taking their hands and just reassuring them that everything will be okay.”

Learn more about Concordia University Ann Arbor’s School of Nursing by visiting

Photos courtesy of Concordia University Ann Arbor

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About the Author

Rachel Thoms is the Manager of Campus Communication at Concordia University Ann Arbor.

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