News Releases

Lander nursing instructor selected for doctoral financial assistance

October 22, 2009

A second member of Lander University's nursing faculty has been selected to receive a yearly stipend to help pay the cost of obtaining a doctorate in nursing.

Brian Conner, an instructor in Lander's William Preston Turner Department of Nursing, has received a $40,000 grant from the South Carolina Governor's State Workforce Investment Board (SCIB) whose mission is to oversee the state's efforts to develop a skilled, high-quality workforce.

The S.C. Nursing Capacity Initiative funded grants through the S.C. Nurses Foundation to provide fellowships for nurses enrolled in master's or doctoral programs. In return, candidates must agree to teach in a state-approved nursing program for at least three years after earning their degrees.

Conner has completed the first year of his doctoral studies at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston and expects to receive his degree in 2011.

The Indianapolis native spent 10 of the 13 years that he lived in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., working as a restaurant manager and cook before deciding that he wanted to serve people in a different way. He chose nursing because of his interest in health care and the range of nursing specialties available.

After obtaining his bachelor's and master's degrees, he worked in critical care nursing for 26 years in Florida and at Self Regional Healthcare where his wife, Connie, is a senior vice president and chief nursing officer. It was her acceptance of a position at Self that brought them to Greenwood.

Conner joined Lander in 2007 as an instructor working with students performing their clinical requirements at Self Regional. He became a full-time classroom instructor the following year and now teaches leadership, management and critical care nursing courses. "I am able to bring real-world experiences to my classes," said Conner, adding, "I have a passion for teaching. I don't just lecture in my classes. I encourage students to ask questions and engage me because when they do, it makes me think about something I had not thought about before."

He said a doctoral degree will allow him to become involved in research, especially in the area of evidence-based practice. "That ensures that what nurses are doing has substance to it based on research showing best practices. It makes us more scientific in what we do and more accountable for the way we do things."

Lander's nursing department has nine faculty members. One has a doctorate of nursing practice and four others, including Conner, are enrolled in doctoral studies. He said, "This speaks volumes about the caliber of our nursing faculty who are pursuing their education to the fullest."

One of the four is Teri Gunter Lawson, a 2002 Lander nursing graduate, who joined Lander's nursing faculty in 2007 after receiving a master's degree as a family nurse practitioner from Clemson University. She is also enrolled at MUSC and, as a Blue Cross Blue Shield nursing fellow, she receives an annual $40,000 stipend. She will obtain her doctorate a year ahead of Conner, who said the two consult often on their studies. "She is my mentor."

The Conners have two children. Son Brad is an assistant professor of psychology at Temple University; daughter Melissa lives in St. Petersburg, Fla., and is the administrator of a physician practice and a licensed acupuncturist.

Bernice Daugherty, chair of Lander's nursing department, said Conner demonstrates his love of nursing education each day at Lander and added, "We are fortunate to have him as part of our nursing faculty."

She expressed gratitude to the State Workforce Investment Board, the S.C. Nursing Capacity Initiative, the S.C. Nurses Foundation and Blue Cross Blue Shield for their support of nursing education for Conner, Lawson and others.