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When leaving UCF, some students may write a simple thank you note to the professors who inspired them. Alumna Myra Keleher thought a check for $20,000 might get the message across better.

After receiving her bachelor's degree in 2008 and master's in 2011, Keleher nominated UCF's College of Nursing for a scholarship award of $20,000.

Part of its fourth annual Case Manager Scholarship Award, GENEX, an experienced managed care provider, provided a total of $100,000 to five colleges and universities that were nominated and chosen to receive scholarship awards to better their individual programs.

Serving as the branch manager at GENEX Services, Keleher thought UCF was a deserving recipient.

Along with UCF, West Texas A&M University, Winston-Salem State University, San Diego State University and Murray State University were nominated for the award, each receiving $20,000.

In Keleher's nomination letter for the award, she said the well-qualified faculty in the College of Nursing is able to offer an excellent learning experience in a format that is conducive to full-time working nurses who wish to further their education and opportunities.

"The College of Nursing at the University of Central Florida offers high-quality, innovative academic programs that reflect the health care needs of a changing population," she said in the letter. "Creativity and vision are at the foundation of nursing education at UCF."

Katie Korkosz, director of development for UCF's College of Nursing, said the college is actually going to put the money toward a program that works to increase the number of doctorally prepared faculty available to teach nursing schools.

The Jonas Center for Nursing and Veterans Healthcare invited the college to submit a proposal for the Jonas Nurse Scholar Program.

After receiving the invitation to apply for funding, the college is working toward earning $40,000 to match the funds for the program.

The GENEX scholarship award will be applied toward this program, advancing the college halfway to the matching funds.

To earn the next $20,000, Korkosz said she is actively fundraising and encouraging Ph.D. students to enroll in the program for three years.

"We're facing a national nursing shortage of nurse faculty members," Korkosz said. "Many of our faculty are retiring, so there's a huge need. And as our Ph.D. students are finishing [the program], we're hoping that many of them will come back and teach and become nurse educators.

"We're really needing to look for the next generation of nurse faculty and nurse educators."

GENEX started the scholarship award program to help expand the future and bring in more expertise of future nurse case managers, said Tom Kerr, senior product marketing manager for GENEX.

The program is a process of giving back, and Kerr said GENEX turns to its 1,600 case managers who are such a vital part of everything the organization does.

Kerr said UCF's College of Nursing is really close to Keleher's heart, and it's a good reason to give back because she had such a positive experience through the program.

"I felt that UCF offered me what I was looking for," Keleher said. "I was hoping that this award would help some nurse to go on and get their bachelor's and master's and doctorate, if they wish."

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Rachel Stuart is the News Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @RachSage or email her at RachelS@CentralFloridaFuture.com.

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