Phyllis Jacobs ends teaching career but not her service to students

The WSU professor has established a scholarship for post-grad nursing education

Phyllis Jacobs

Phyllis Jacobs will retire this month after a 23-year teaching career, including the past 11 years as director of the Undergraduate Nursing Program at Wichita State.

In her 23-year career at Wichita State, one of the greatest rewards for Phyllis Jacobs has been helping students overcome their anxieties about mental illness and mental health education.

    “I find one of the joys I have in education is when students start the mental health nursing course frightened by mental health issues and they leave the course with an understanding of these issues,” Jacobs says. “They realize that patients look like you and me and are real people with needs just like themselves.”

   Jacobs, an assistant professor and clinical coordinator in the WSU School of Nursing, has established a scholarship for nursing students who choose to pursue a Doctorate of Nursing Program after they earn their undergraduate degree. It’s her hope that the Jacobs Scholars Program will support nurses whose advanced education will help them deliver high-quality mental health care. Though 20 percent of the general population has a mental health disorder, she says, only about 4 percent of nursing graduates work in the mental health field.

   “The School of Nursing is excited about Phyllis’s continued commitment and support of graduate nursing students at WSU,” says Betty Smith-Campbell, chair of the School of Nursing. “With the shortage of primary care providers we need to have expert practitioners, especially in the mental health sector.”

   Jacobs, who has been director of the Undergraduate Nursing Program the past 11 years, is retiring this month. Though she has spent most of her career in higher education, that was not her original plan. After earning her master’s in psychiatric nursing, she worked at a mental health institution for five years until a mentor suggested she use her master’s degree more effectively by teaching.

   “Back then, a master’s in nursing was not very common,” Jacobs says. “So I said, ‘I’ll give it a try’ and I really enjoyed it.”

   Jacobs taught at St. Louis University in Missouri and Millikin University in Decatur, Ill., before coming to WSU. She was instrumental in helping Wichita State launch its Doctorate of Nursing program in 2009 and increasing its enrollment, says Juanita Tate, director of the School of Nursing at the time. She praised Jacobs’ passion for improving mental health care through nursing education programs.

   “Mental health needs are greatly underserved in this country and advanced registered nurse practitioners are one solution to that problem,” Tate says.

   Jacobs’ plans for retirement are to relearn the piano, learn how to speak Spanish and spend time with her two grandchildren. But her service to Wichita State will continue with her newly established scholarship. The first recipients will be named in December.


circle arrow If you would like to establish a scholarship to help deserving nursing students, please contact Lynette Murphy, WSU Foundation senior director of development for the College of Health Professions and University Libraries, at (316) 978-3441 or at

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