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UCC Nursing Instructors Stay Local with Tuition-Free, Master’s Degree

UCC nursing faculty members Rivka Spain Butler and Mary Barron are taking advantage of a new grant program enabling them to earn a master’s degree without leaving the community.

The program not only covers their tuition, but features mostly online coursework, meaning the instructors can remain at UCC while continuing their work to teach and inspire more nurses in the community.

The program’s funding comes from a $45 million state “30-30-30 grant” awarded to the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) to address the healthcare worker shortage, particularly in rural communities. The grant aims to increase the number of graduating healthcare clinicians by 30%, increase student diversity by 30%, all by 2030. The tuition savings per student is estimated to be $38,000 and includes shared/online textbooks and other resources.

Rivka, an Assistant Professor of Nursing who grew up in Sutherlin, currently teaches Pathophysiological Processes I & II, Acute Care Nursing and leads a clinical group of eight UCC nursing students. While in high school, she studied to become a CNA (certified nursing assistant) which prepared her to work as a CNA in Neurology during college. A scholarship from The Ford Family Foundation enabled her to achieve a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing), and after six years of work in larger metro areas including Denver and Portland, she returned to Roseburg to teach at UCC.

Rivka is hopeful the program will encourage more nurses to stay local while pursuing their passions for higher learning, teaching, and patient care.

“Community change and making a real impact to the healthcare available to our rural community is what I love. I think it’s important to bring knowledge back to where we live and make the experience for our students better,” she said.

Rivka is now working on her master’s degree and credits the OHSU 30-30-30 grant program for helping her balance family priorities and educational goals, all while remaining in the community she loves.

Instructor Mary Barron is also dedicated to guiding future nurses driven to serve locally. She’s a seventh-generation Oregonian, with enduring family roots in Douglas County.

In her role as the Simulation and Clinical Skills Coordinator at UCC Nursing, Mary believes in an applied, hands-on method of learning. In the SIM/Skills lab students utilize a variety of simulation-based activities designed to accommodate different learning styles and provide nursing students the opportunity to develop confidence.

“The days of lecturing with a PowerPoint are over,” Mary said. “My goal is to make the lessons engaging and memorable so there are key takeaways the students never forget.”

Mary started her career in healthcare by working as a medical transcriptionist from home, which led to a passion for nursing. After earning The Ford Family Foundation Restart scholarship, she completed UCC’s nursing program where she was active in the Phi Kappa Theta Honor Society, Student Nurse Association, and was asked to speak at her pinning ceremony.

After earning her RN, Mary earned her bachelor’s in nursing at OHSU. She has worked as an orthopedic and general surgical nurse for 7 years. She began working at UCC Nursing in 2021.

“I love growing good nurses,” Mary said. “The students are great, and teaching is just something I feel I’m meant to do.”

For more information on UCC’s nursing programs, visit

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