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Section I: Introduction

About the University

South Dakota State University is the state’s largest, most comprehensive higher-education institution. A public, land-grant institution, SDSU was founded in 1881, authorized by the Dakota Territorial Legislature, and is governed by the South Dakota Board of Regents.

About the Graduate School

The SDSU Graduate School advances post-baccalaureate education to meet the economic, technological and societal needs of South Dakota and beyond, supports graduate student success and fosters innovation and diversity in graduate education and scholarship.

The Graduate School supports post-baccalaureate education at SDSU by promoting programs for student recruitment, setting and adhering admission standards, and defining and maintaining rigorous academic standards for graduate programs. Administrative support is provided to departments and colleges seeking to improve existing courses as well as development of new programs. The Graduate School seeks academic balance through enhancement of graduate research and scholarly works, promotion of human diversity among the graduate student body and graduate faculty, and engagement with the graduate faculty to achieve the highest level of academic education.

Policies and procedures of the graduate nursing programs have been developed in compliance with the SDSU Graduate School policies. TheSDSU Graduate School catalog should be used as the primary reference for information on graduate education as SDSU.

About the College of Nursing

South Dakota State University College of Nursing 1935-2019

The story of the College of Nursing reflects a legacy of leadership, vision and innovation. One of the nation's first baccalaureate programs for nurses, the college has consistently and relentlessly pursued excellence and expanded its central role in health care delivery. Thousands of nurses have prepared themselves for key roles in hospitals, clinics, communities, government agencies, academia and research. Many graduates moved rapidly into highly influential executive positions. After a humble beginning with six students enrolled in an undergraduate program taught by one faculty member, the college currently boasts enrollment of more than 1,800 students in pre-nursing, undergraduate and graduate programs. In 2019, the college includes online programs and four face- to-face program delivery sites, with locations across the state of South Dakota in the communities of Brookings, Sioux Falls, Aberdeen and Rapid City. Online programs reach students located in more than 40 states. Faculty numbers have grown from 1 to 59. They are leaders who champion nationally accredited programs that offer multiple degree options and clinical specialties. This incredibly talented faculty prepares students to earn the Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree, the Master of Science (M.S.) degree, the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), and the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree through many pathways to advanced education. The College of Nursing at South Dakota State University is a nursing education trailblazer.

Leaders of the college have responded quickly to changes in health care, population health and developments within the discipline by creating, expanding or modifying programs and delivering education off-site or via technology. Building such a multifaceted, complex college hinged on several key initiatives: faculty development, procurement of resources, clinical, academic and community partnerships, and a continuous flow of highly qualified and committed students.

As a land-grant institution, SDState is devoted to the interlocking missions of education, scholarship and service. The field of nursing at SDSU has consistently devoted its resources to these three important areas. The College of Nursing was the state's first program to develop capacity for nursing research. In addition, the college kept its focus on the rural and underserved populations of the state and the region and emerged as a leader in service through continuing education, program outreach and development of nursing faculty, nursing leaders, nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists as well as nurse scientists. True to the land-grant mission, College of Nursing programs have never been based only on campus. As a practice discipline, nursing students are required to interact with members of the community to gain critical thinking, problem-solving, psychomotor and elder and childcare skills to prepare them to enter the workforce upon graduation. Nursing education delivered by SDSU has touched residents of nearly every community in the state of South Dakota and extends beyond the borders to numerous states.

Learn more about the history of the College of Nursing.

Transforming Students Into Nurses

The South Dakota State University College of Nursing promotes a combination of didactic and clinical experiences that equip students to practice nursing with expertise, professionalism, and a passion for helping others. The curriculum is based on the meta-paradigm of nursing, which includes the concepts of client, health, environment and nursing.

Students also receive a variety of hands-on learning experiences with our Healthcare Simulation Center and clinical requirements. Plus, we have research opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students. Our program has an 80-year history of delivering a well-rounded, quality nursing education.


The College strives for excellence in undergraduate and graduate education, research, scholarship and health services to diverse individuals, communities and populations across the life span. The College of Nursing improves human health and quality of life for people in the state of South Dakota, the region, the nation and the world.


To be a national leader in accessible and quality undergraduate and graduate nursing education and recognized across health disciplines, and to prospective students, alumni, and nursing leaders as innovative scholars and researchers who improve human health through strategic partnerships and interprofessional collaboration that shapes new delivery models of quality health care and nursing education.

Core Values*

  • People-Centered: We recognize leadership is derived from service to others. We are committed to creating a culture where all thrive and are supported on their own personal and professional paths toward lifelong learning, growth and leadership.
  • Creativity: Creativity is our cornerstone to expand knowledge, develop human understanding and enrich quality of life. We believe that education and research/scholarship/creative activity reinforce one another and the best academic programs bring innovative teaching and rigorous research together.
  • Integrity: We act with organizational and personal integrity, through honest interactions, professionalism, transparent and accountable decision-making, and respect for others.
  • Diversity:We are committed to diversity of community and ideas. We believe in a supportive, inclusive, collaborative and cohesive environment with a focus on access. We actively seek collaboration and we respect individuals with differing perspectives, backgrounds, and areas of expertise.
  • Excellence: Excellence is achieved through continuous improvement, assessment and accountability. We embrace bold action and adapt to an ever-changing environment. Individually, we are experts at what we do. Collectively, our impact is even greater.



Education of nurses and other health care professionals is essential to the health and quality of life in the state, region and nation. Education is a self-directed, yet interactive lifelong process that empowers learners to think critically and grow toward their potential as individuals and contributing members of the profession and society.

The essential components of professional nursing education include liberal education, professional values, clinical reasoning, and role development. The role of faculty is to guide, direct, facilitate and evaluate learning while encouraging curiosity, creativity and independent thinking.

Undergraduate education prepares individuals for basic entry into nursing practice. This education provides the foundation for the development of professional knowledge, critical thinking, ethical decision-making, leadership skills and pursuit of high standards in health care to influence quality health outcomes. The health science minor offers nursing and other professional student’s knowledge and skills to promote health, prevent disease and protect the environment.

Master’s education prepares nurses for advanced practice in nursing or for specialty areas of nursing practice. The advanced professional nursing role relies on best practices and evidence-based research with a focus on evaluation of health outcomes and process.

Doctoral education prepares the Ph.D. nurse scholar to influence health care through leadership in education, policy, research, nursing theory and nursing knowledge development. Doctoral education prepares the nurse clinician (DNP) for advanced practice in a primary care role and to influence health policy.

Meta-paradigm in Nursing

The nursing curriculum is based upon the meta-paradigm of nursing, which includes the concepts of person, health, environment and nursing.


Each person is a complex and unique multidimensional being, which includes physical, psychological, sociocultural and spiritual dimensions. Person encompasses the lifespan. The concept of person encompasses individuals within families and communities as well as groups and aggregates within populations.


Health encompasses multidimensional states of developmental, cognitive, physical, psychological, social, cultural, genetic and spiritual balance throughout the lifespan. Health is a dynamic state which is individually defined within the environment.


Environment consists of dynamic internal and external factors that interact to influence a person’s health. The environment can be altered to positively affect a person’s health by changing or removing unhealthy factors and enhancing or providing health promoting resources. Persons are influenced by and responsive to their environments and can choose to alter their internal and external environments to influence their health.


Nursing is a professional way of caring which uses both art and science to respond to and interact with all dimensions of the person and the environment to provide quality health care and promote quality of life in health, illness, and end of life. Nursing is concerned with human experiences and responses to birth, health, illness and death within the context of individuals, families, groups and communities (American Nurses Association, 1995). Nurses, individually and in collaboration with other health care professionals, provide optimal health care and comfort of individuals and groups through the systematic application of knowledge from nursing and other disciplines. Implicit in the practice of professional nursing is accountability for professional growth and practice, demonstration of leadership and commitment to the development and application of nursing theory, nursing knowledge and research. Life-long learning leads to the optimal development of both the individual practitioner and the discipline of nursing.


College of Nursing Graduate Programs

The following degree or certificate options (and specializations) are offered by the SDSU Graduate Nursing Program:

  1. Master's degree in nursing
    1. Nurse administrator
    2. Clinical nurse leader
    3. Nurse educator
    4. Family nurse practitioner
    5. Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  2. Doctor of Nursing Practice
    1. Bachelor's (B.S.) to DNP with a choice of specialization
      1. Family nurse practitioner
      2. Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
    2. Post master's to DNP
      1. For applicants who hold a Master's degree in Nursing along with current licensure and certification in one of the advanced nursing specialties (nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, clinical nurse specialist or midwife).
    3. Post master's to DNP-FNP
      1. For applicants who hold a Master's degree in Nursing in a non-clinical specialty area such as Nursing Administration, Nursing Education and Clinical Nurse Leader.
    4. Post master's to DNP-PMHNP
      1.  For applicants who hold a master's degree in nursing along with current licensure and certification in one of the advanced nursing specialties (nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, clinical nurse specialist or nurse midwife).
  3. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
    1. 60-credit option
      1. For applicants who hold a master's degree in nursing.
    2. 90-credit option
      1. For applicants who hold a bachelor's degree in nursing.
  4. Postgraduate certificate
    1. Family nurse practitioner (APRN-C)
    2. Clinical nurse leader
    3. Nurse educator
    4. Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (APRN-C)
      1. For applicants with a previous graduate level degree in nursing.

*** Degree/certificate specific information can be found in the designated degree section of this handbook.

Graduate Nursing Curriculum Plans of Study

Admission Information

Admission Requirements / Procedures

Admission information can be found on the SDSU Graduate Nursing Program website and on the SDSU Graduate School website.

Conditional Admission Status

Conditional admission may be granted for students enrolled in an accredited U.S. college or university, if the applicant:

  1. meets the requirements for admission for the last three semesters but has not completed the last semester of undergraduate study. Admission is conditional until the bachelor’s degree is granted, OR
  2. lacks prerequisite undergraduate courses specified by the major program. Admission is conditional until these courses have been completed to the satisfaction of the program, OR
  3. has a grade point average between 2.75 and 3.0 cumulative for the junior and senior years.

A student admitted conditionally must satisfy any conditions within the first semester of enrollment in the graduate program before receiving unconditional status. Performance required to receive unconditional status will be provided to the student in the letter of acceptance. Failure of a student to fulfill the stated conditions may result in dismissal from the program.

Non-degree seeking Student

Students who are not pursuing a degree may register as non-degree seeking student. There is no application fee to apply with the Graduate School as a non-degree seeking student, though the student is responsible for tuition and fees.

Special Students may not receive graduate assistantships, financial aid or enroll for thesis/dissertation credits. The Dean of the Graduate School will act as an advisor for these students unless otherwise noted.

A Special Student may apply for admission into a graduate program using the normal procedures outlined in this document.

No more than 12 credits acquired under Special Student status may be applied toward a degree.


Students formerly enrolled as graduate students at South Dakota State University and who have not maintained continuous enrollment (excluding summer semesters) must apply for readmission to their program. Graduate School policies in effect for the term of readmission will apply. Official transcripts must be furnished for graduate work taken at other institutions since last enrolled at South Dakota State University. Programs may require the student to update supporting documents for the application. Readmitted students are encouraged to contact their graduate advisor prior to registration. Students who are readmitted may be required to change their advisory committee, file a new plan of study or resubmit other matriculation documents. The application fee will be waived for those applicants applying for readmission as long as they were active within the past three terms; excluding summer.

The material will be reviewed by the Graduate Nursing Admissions and Scholastic Standards Committee and a readmission decision to the College of Nursing Graduate Program will be made on a space available basis. Previous coursework must be current or updated following Graduate School Policies and an updated background check will be required for students inactive for 12 months or longer. If a previously admitted student has an enrollment lapse of 12 months, a new application must be completed and submitted to both the SDSU Graduate School and the Graduate Nursing Program.

Residency Requirements

South Dakota State University is required to establish residency status of all applicants. Please review the residency requirements prior to completing an application. A full description of qualifications is available in the residency application.