UNM College of Nursing, where innovation and tradition blend.

Unique History,

Innovative Future 

Learn About Us

In the early 1950s, New Mexico nurses voiced their concerns about an inadequate supply of registered nurses (RNs) to meet the health care needs of the state’s increasing population. By the spring of 1955, the UNM College of Nursing was founded by Dr. Marion Fleck and Mary Jane Carter, with the enthusiastic support of UNM President, Tom Popejoy. 

The first dean of the College of Nursing was Eleanor King from Yale University, and 17 students were admitted that fall. In 1959, the first class graduated, which opened the door for the College to receive accreditation from the National League for Nursing. Virginia Crenshaw arrived from UCLA to become the second dean of the College in 1961. The baccalaureate program expanded to accept RNs for completion of an upper-division nursing major. 

In 1978, the College extended the program again to offer the state’s first Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program, which began with a 3-year grant from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

The RN to BSN Distance Education program got under way in 1988 and began broadcasting interactive television courses in 1989. Ten years later, the College provided online curriculum through Internet technologies for the RN to BSN program and MSN nursing administration and nursing education concentrations to better address the needs of students. 

A Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (PhD) program began in 2003, with 11 students from New Mexico. This program, the first in the state, focuses on the health care needs of vulnerable children, youth and women.

In 2009, the College was one of the founding members of the New Mexico Nursing Education Consortium (NMNEC), bringing common core nursing curriculum to the state and allowing for a partnership with community colleges and UNM to offer the BSN program across the state.

Recognizing a critical need at the state and national levels, the College established a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree to prepare nurses for the highest level of professional nursing practice in 2016.

The College currently enrolls more than 1,000 students across its BSN, MSN, DNP and PhD programs and has over 8,000 alumni. It continues to lead the way in education innovation and focuses on rural and underserved populations.

With a growing national fervor for higher education, many registered nurses (RNs) desired to turn their 3 years of training into a bachelor’s degree and requested classes at The University of New Mexico. Mary Jane Carter, executive director of the New Mexico State Nurses’ Association, was already participating in a committee with UNM President Tom Popejoy to investigate the need for a full nursing program at UNM.

The committee commissioned a study by the US Public Health Service on nursing needs and resources in New Mexico, concluding that a college curriculum leading to a degree in professional nursing should indeed be established. Into this situation, stepped Marion Fleck in 1953, a UNM alumna who had earned a master’s degree in nursing at Yale and had returned to the state.

Fleck marketed the idea of a college of nursing to local branches of the nurses’ association, to physicians and to hospital administrators, some of whom were lukewarm or feared the changes such a program would bring. Carter helped with support and navigating the politics of it all.

The College of Nursing was approved and funded with $60,000 for the first 2 years. Within 5 years the program was accredited. After the program was accredited, Fleck and Carter went on to other pursuits.

In the early 1970s, Fleck was asked to help with a Kellogg Foundation project sponsoring a proposal for the development of a master’s in nursing program at UNM. During this time she was tapped to serve as acting dean of the College of Nursing from 1976 to August 1977. Fleck then called on Carter to assist with the final proposal for the master’s program, which was approved in the fall of 1977.

Mary Jane Carter passed away in 1992 and Marion Fleck passed way in 2016.  Their legacy is a robust College of Nursing that today continues to produce compassionate professionals who are highly skilled in the art and science of healing.

1955—UNM College of Nursing is founded by Marion Fleck and Mary Jane Carter, and 17 students are admitted to the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program

1956—First clinical site is established with Bernalillo County-Indian Hospital and Bataan Memorial Methodist Hospital

1959—College receives full accreditation for its Bachelor of Science in Nursing program from the National League for Nursing (NLN)

1961—Baccalaureate program expands to accept registered nurses (RNs) for completion of upper-division nursing major

1974—The Colleges of Nursing and Pharmacy have a new building equipped for new curriculum, including television capability in all teaching/learning spaces

1978—College extends its program to offer a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree

1980—MSN Administration in Nursing program is implemented

1982—Post-Master’s Professional Certificate in Nursing is approved

1989— College starts Geriatric Education & Health Maintenance Clinics (GEHM)

1988—RN to BSN Distance Education program gets under way with interactive television

1991—First class of 7 students graduate from the Family Nurse Practitioner program at the master’s level

1992—First group of eight MSN nurse-midwifery students begin their studies

1994—College of Nursing, College of Pharmacy, School of Medicine and University patient care facilities join to comprise the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center

1996—MSN Nursing Education concentration begins

1999—Online courses take the place of educational outreach courses taught via satellite transmission

2001—RN to BSN program is offered completely online

2003—College admits 11 students to the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program

2006—MSN program offers a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner concentration

2008—College partners with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at UNM to offer a PhD concentration in health policy

2009—New Mexico Nursing Education Consortium (NMNEC) is established

2013—Nine students admitted to the first Post Master’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Nurse Executive Organizational Leadership cohort

2013—College partners with the New Mexico Veterans Affairs Health Care System to prepare students to meet the needs of veterans

2013—College transitions the Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP) program to the Adult-Gerontology-ACNP program

2014—First cohorts under the NMNEC curriculum begin at Central New Mexico Community College and UNM College of Nursing

2016—College offers Post-Master’s Certificate in Psychiatric Mental Health for nurse practitioners

2016—First DNP Clinical students begin the program

2019—First Freshmen Direct Entry students are accepted into the College


Mary Jane Carter

Marion Fleck



1955-1960—Eleanor M. King

1961-1966—Virginia Crenshaw

1967-1968—Reina Hall

1969-1976—B. Louise Murray

1977-1981—Carmen Westwick

1982-1986—Barbara Rees

1987-1993—Estelle Rosenblum

1993-1996—Kathleen Bond

1997-2008—Sandra Ferketich

2009-2017—Nancy Ridenour

2018-Present—Christine Kasper


Interim Deans

1960-1961—Dorothy Lacour and Genevieve Noble

1966-1967—Reina Hall

1968-1969—Beth Hicks

1976-1977—Marion Fleck

1981-1982—Judy Maurin

1986-1987—Estelle Rosenblum

1996-1997—Donea Shane

2008-2009—Karen Carlson

2017-2018—Carolyn Montoya

UNM’s History

The University of New Mexico was created by an act of the New Mexico Territorial Legislature in 1889. It began instruction in 1892, emphasizing a curriculum of liberal arts, sciences, literature and teacher training. Bernard Shandon Rodey, a judge of the territory of New Mexico, pushed for Albuquerque as the location of the university and was one of the authors of the statute that created UNM, earning him the title of "Father of the University." Two years later, Elias S. Stover became the first president of the University, and the following year, the university's first building, Hodgin Hall, opened. Most of the campus buildings reflect the architectural influence of New Mexico’s Pueblo Indian and Hispanic cultures.

Albuquerque’s History

The Rio Grande Valley has been populated since as far back as 2,000 B.C. The Pueblo people who lived in the area when Europeans arrived had a sophisticated culture and advanced skills in stone masonry, ceramics and a wide range of arts and crafts. Many of these traditional techniques are practiced to this day, handed down through the generations.

In 1706, a group of colonists were granted permission by King Philip of Spain to establish a new city on the Rio Grande. The colonists chose a spot with good irrigation for crops and a source of wood from the bosque. The new city was named La Villa de Albuquerque in honor of the duke of Albuquerque back in Spain. Over the centuries, the first “r” was dropped, leaving Albuquerque spelled as it is today.

Leading the Pack

  • 1st Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program in New Mexico
  • 1st Master of Science in Nursing Program in New Mexico
  • 1st Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Program in New Mexico

Alumni Relations Contact

Director of Alumni Relations

Marlena Bermel, MBA
College of Nursing
Building Number 228 Office 346
1 University of New Mexico