Alverno College, Ascension Wisconsin announce letter of intent for strategic alliance

June 6, 2019

Institutions seek to develop mission-driven workforce, deliver personalized care to all

Alverno College and Ascension Wisconsin have signed a letter of intent to establish a strategic alliance to improve the health of the state’s residents, Alverno President Dr. Andrea Lee and Bernie Sherry, Ministry Market Executive for Ascension Wisconsin, announced Tuesday, May 28, 2019.

This relationship will amplify the existing clinical relationship between the two Catholic institutions and seeks to further develop a skilled, mission-driven workforce to help meet the needs of the state’s rapidly evolving healthcare environment. It also will further advance the initiatives of Alverno and Ascension Wisconsin, grounded in their shared Catholic and Franciscan values, to strategically drive improved health outcomes for the state’s residents.

Alverno will expand its existing academic degree, certificate and credential programs in healthcare and develop new programs. This includes degrees and continuing education opportunities for employees at Ascension Wisconsin’s 24 hospital campuses and more than 100 clinics statewide. Ascension Wisconsin will provide expanded access for Alverno students to the clinical education experiences necessary in their preparation as healthcare professionals. This includes clinical placements and career placement opportunities within Ascension Wisconsin’s statewide integrated system of care.

“This is a logical and desirable alliance for Alverno College,” Sister Andrea said. “Providing accessible, high-quality and affordable healthcare to residents of the city, region and state, especially for those with limited access to care, is a highly recognized characteristic of Alverno healthcare professionals and of Ascension Wisconsin associates.”

“As an anchor in communities from Racine to Eagle River, Ascension Wisconsin is focused on providing compassionate, personalized care to all people, especially those living in poverty and who are most vulnerable,” Sherry said. “This alliance will build on our shared commitment to strengthen educational opportunities for the next generation of nurses, with a focus on increasing diversity in the workforce.”

As part of the Alverno-Ascension Wisconsin strategic alliance, leaders of the two institutions have signed a letter of intent and are engaged in serious discussions to combine Alverno’s JoAnn McGrath School of Nursing and Health Professions and the 118-year-old Columbia College of Nursing (CCON), part of Ascension Wisconsin, located in Glendale, Wis., subject to receipt of all necessary approvals. Once finalized, CCON’s coeducational programs will be administratively housed in Alverno’s School of Adult Learning and New Initiatives, with curricular oversight by the JoAnn McGrath School of Nursing and Health Professions.

“We are eager to collaborate with our CCON nursing colleagues and are especially interested in the possibility of expanding our footprint with a north side presence,” said Patricia Varga, Ph.D., dean of Alverno’s JoAnn McGrath School of Nursing and Health Professions.

“We share a passion for excellent nurse preparation,” explained Heather Vartanian, PhD, RN, ANP-BC, president and dean of Columbia College of Nursing. “Collaborating around our shared mission in healthcare education will only enhance our capacity to contribute positively to the evolution of healthcare delivery in the region.”

“Healthcare is changing rapidly, so rapidly that demand for skilled healthcare providers cannot keep pace with the need, a clear indicator of the power of alliances such as this and others across the region,” Dr. Lee said. “Ascension Wisconsin and Alverno educators will have significant roles in advancing important conversations on healthcare delivery in the future. We are excited to continue the conversation and to move quickly to action.” Given that the Alverno and Ascension Wisconsin’s strategic alliance will not be exclusive, both Alverno and Ascension Wisconsin will continue their current and emerging business relationships with other institutions and healthcare systems.

About Alverno College

Founded in 1887, Alverno College is a four-year, Catholic liberal arts college sponsored by the School Sisters of St. Francis. Student learning and personal and professional development are the central focus of everyone in the Alverno College community.

The college also offers graduate programs, including doctorates in Nursing and Education, and growth in graduate enrollment is a primary strategic goal. In fall 2019, Alverno College enrolled about 1,700 students in its undergraduate programs for women and its graduate, two-year and degree completion programs for women and men.

The college was ranked among the top four Midwest Regional Universities in the 2019 U.S. News & World Report “Strong Commitment to Teaching” category and highest in Wisconsin for the eighth consecutive year. In addition, Alverno consistently ranks among the top regional universities in the Midwest in the “Most Innovative Schools” category and is Wisconsin’s first Hispanic-Serving Institution.

About Ascension Wisconsin

Ascension Wisconsin (ascension. org/wisconsin) operates 24 hospital campuses, more than 100 related healthcare facilities and employs more than 1,300 primary and specialty care clinicians from Racine to Eagle River. Serving Wisconsin since 1848, Ascension is a faith-based healthcare organization committed to delivering compassionate, personalized care to all, with special attention to persons living in poverty and those most vulnerable. As such, Ascension Wisconsin provided more than $292 million in community benefit, including care of persons living in poverty in Fiscal Year 2018. As one of the leading non-profit and Catholic health systems in the U.S., Ascension operates 2,600 sites of care – including 151 hospitals and more than 50 senior living facilities – in 21 states and the District of Columbia.