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Nurse Corps Scholarships help address health care provider shortages

By Geoff Cantrell
nurse corp

Shuli Archer, right, is the recipient of a Nurse Corps Scholarship.

Shuli Archer, a student in the School of Nursing at Western Carolina University, recently received a Nurse Corps Scholarship from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration.

The scholarships are intended to help address critical shortages in health care in rural and underserved communities. Awards provide for tuition, required fees and other annual educational costs, and provide a monthly support stipend. A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services initiative, the scholarships are provided in exchange for participants working at an eligible critical shortage facility upon graduation.

Archer is the second WCU recipient in the past three years.

shuli archer

Shuli Archer

“I’ve wanted to pursue nursing for years, but felt I couldn't leave my career as a higher education administrator,” said Archer, who is enrolled in WCU’s accelerated bachelor of science degree in nursing program. “After COVID-19, my family and I decided to take the leap. The Nurse Corps Scholarship will make this a lot more doable and will allow me to fully invest in my studies, while also saving some time to spend with my partner and three kids. I am also thrilled to be part of a national cohort of amazing nursing students in the Nurse Corps Scholarship program, who are committed to health equity and access.”

School of Nursing administrators hope Archer’s example will lead others to apply for Nurse Corps Scholarships. She also sets a good example of how determination and persistence can make a difference and help others.

“We’re really proud of Shuli,” said Debra Penberthy, WCU’s director of student services for nursing programs. “This accomplishment is right in line with the School of Nursing’s long history of increasing access to excellent health care in underserved places like Western North Carolina. And the fact that Shuli is a first-generation college student and also a working mom is so Western, too. We’re opening doors for careers - even second careers, and it’s fantastic that with the Nurse Corps Scholarship, Shuli can focus fully on her studies.”

Archer had been a community engagement professional in colleges and universities for 20 years “and yet, I knew for quite some time it wasn’t my passion,” she said. “In 2014, I spent two weeks in the hospital after the early birth of my twins, who are now seven. I watched the nurses - a lot. About a year later I turned to my partner and said I’m going to quit my job, quit my Ph.D. program, and become a nurse.”

A nursing education didn’t immediately happen for her, however, and she still earned her doctorate degree. But fast forward to 2020 when so much changed for everyone. “Working from home and staring at a computer all day, I began to wonder about my forgotten dream of nursing,” Archer said. “I signed up for the remaining prerequisites at A-B Tech, started looking for financial aid, and now here I am.”

Nurse Corps members work in critical health care areas that represent much of the region’s needs, such as ambulatory surgical centers, community mental health facilities, hospices and small rural hospitals.

The School of Nursing is nationally ranked and accredited, with undergraduate and graduate programs at the main campus in Cullowhee, Biltmore Park instructional site in Asheville and online.

For more information on the School of Nursing and scholarship opportunities, including Nurse Corps Scholarships, visit

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