Nursing faculty at MSU-Meridian to approach hands-on teaching with experience, compassion in new program

Cindy Luther, professor of nursing (Photo by Marianne Todd)Contact: Marianne Todd

MERIDIAN, Miss.—Cindy Luther, professor of nursing, has been caring for patients for more than 50 years. The former director of nursing for Rush Foundation Hospital and a current nurse practitioner at Ochsner Rush, Luther learned the hands-on methodology of teaching as a nursing student in 1974 at the former Matty Hersee Hospital in Meridian. The practice is one she hopes to bring to Mississippi State University’s newly created Master of Science in Nursing program at MSU-Meridian.

Today, an empty parcel of land sits in Matty Hersee’s place, but many—some who were born there—remember the state hospital for its compassionate teams of health practitioners who cared for marginalized and underserved patients. Back then, Luther, who donned a starched white uniform and a nursing cap, both lived and studied at the hospital.

As technology advanced, hands-on nursing practices began to change, putting more nurses in front of computers than patients and pivoting students to online learning. Neither of these will be true for MSU-Meridian’s incoming MSN students, Luther said.

“This is face-to-face learning, and we have pledged to have clinical experiences early and often,” she said of the new program which enrolls its first students this fall. “I think nurses who stay in the profession and who are the happiest have made a pledge that patients come first with hands-on care.”

The new program is well-suited to college graduates holding non-nursing degrees who seek a new career path. Mature students with life experience are more likely to succeed in such graduate level programs, said Mary Stewart, dean of nursing.

“These are typically older students who already have a great deal of personal support, ones who have lived experience and who understand and exhibit resilience,” Stewart said. “They have grit and self-determination, self-direction.”

Katherine Rigdon, assistant professor, said she was inspired to become a nurse 33 years ago by her aunt who was a licensed practical nurse. She looks forward to engaging students in the first fast-track, 12-month MSN program in the state.

“My aunt was known for being caring, for being engaged, for taking care of her patients,” said Rigdon. “I wanted to be like that, too, and I hope to bring that knowledge to the program along with 19 years of experience in nursing education. Students can expect that they will be appreciated for their education and life experience, and that we’re going to build on that by teaching them that they are advocates not only for their patients but for themselves and the nursing profession.”

Kayla Carr, professor and director, said the MSN program is designed to offer an alternate pathway into practice as a RN for people who have a non-nursing degree or are looking for a career change.

“I’ve been in accelerated education for more than a decade. One of the best parts of working with accelerated students is the rich life experience they bring to nursing school,” Carr said. “You get to work with students who have been teachers or pastors or engineers, people from all walks of personal and professional life and who have a strong background in their area of work or expertise. This is what makes the accelerated approach possible.”

For more information on MSU-Meridian’s accelerated Master of Science in Nursing degree program, email or phone 601-696-2277. To apply, visit

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