It might be hard for current TMCC students to think about, but 50 years ago when students first attended classes at the newly-formed community college, the Dandini Campus didn’t yet exist. At just 20 years old, Dorothy (Dotty) Graham Moreland was the youngest member of the 1972 graduating class from TMCC’s first cohort of its nursing program—a program that would offer students like Moreland an opportunity to earn a two-year degree with lots of hands-on experience that would prepare them to pass the Board Exams and for a successful career. It was something that even UNR did not, at that time, offer.
"I came to [TMCC because] I wanted a shorter and more condensed nursing program,” she explained. “However, the second year of [UNR's] program was supposed to be in Las Vegas because we didn’t have a second year here in Reno.” Yet, Moreland was determined to be a nurse and wanted to complete her education. She knew that continuing her education in Las Vegas was not a possibility. “There was no way I could afford that,” she said, and so she took other prerequisite classes at UNR, waiting to see if another opportunity would open for her in Reno.
Thanks to TMCC (then Western Nevada Community College) nursing faculty Bernice Martin Mathews and Leslie Sheehan, a second year of education and training would lead prospective nurses like Moreland to an associate degree and the ability to take the Board Exams at the newly-formed community college.
“That’s where I wound up because I wanted to finish my education and get a job, so I could be helpful in society,” she said.
TMCC Nursing Program: The Early Years
In 1972, TMCC’s nursing program was run out of the local VA Hospital; everything from registration to clinical and lab classes were conducted at this location literally in the heart of the community. “We did what you would call a lab now, clinical sessions, and we had a little room there in which we taught our classes,” she said.
Moreland’s schedule mimicked that of many TMCC students today who struggle with the balance between academic classes, employment and other obligations. She took her classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, worked as a nurse’s aid Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and worked at Woolworth’s on Sunday. “My mother had a fit because I was working so much, but I wanted to have money,” she remembered.
The instructors in the program didn’t just teach; they inspired students. “The faculty—Bernice Martin Mathews and Leslie Sheehan—were very outstanding women,” she said. “It’s just that the daily experience of being there was inspirational to find people that were so intelligent and wanting to pass it on to us. That’s what I found to be great.”
Despite her demanding schedule, Moreland graduated in May 1972 and passed her Board Exams “without a problem.” She was among a class of 16 students who ran the gamut of age and ability; while Moreland was the youngest at twenty, she remembers another student was in her fifties when she received her Associate of Science degree.
“It was an all-around good experience for me,” she said, remembering the program. “My mother had been a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), and that’s one of the reasons I became a nurse. And in those days, I had girlfriends who became teachers or nurses. That was the choice of careers for women at the time... and I was definitely not teacher-material.”
Immediately after graduating from TMCC with her associate degree, Moreland began to work in the profession. “I began my nursing career working at Washoe Medical Center, now Renown, then to Reno Orthopedic Clinic. Then, I was hired by the state of Nevada as a rehabilitation nurse for worker’s compensation injuries,” she said. Moreland and her husband moved to Colorado, where she was hired by Liberty Mutual Insurance, and earned certification as a Case Manager (CCM), which enabled her to supervise nursing staff across five states.
“Then, I started my own case management business consulting with five insurance companies with four nurses working for me for eight years,” she said. “In semi-retirement, I did telephonic initial case assessments for short-term disability.” Moreland retired in 2014. Yet, if she still wanted to work, she could.
“Just a month ago, Doctors Without Borders called me,” she said. “Being a nurse... even with an associate’s degree, you will never be denied a job, trust me. I never had to have a four-year degree, and I think that is what is so appealing about TMCC. Nurses can get trained in a relatively short period of time and be out working, and not have a huge student loan debt. I didn’t even know what student loans were.”
For Moreland, education didn’t have to cost an arm or a leg—instead it was about learning practical, hands-on, and real-world skills that she could apply to her career right away.
Advice for Nursing Students Today
Moreland encourages students who are even mildly curious about the allied health field to take a deeper look. “Today, it is just so diverse, there are so many opportunities. I would encourage them to get an associate degree because that will enable you to work while you work on a more advanced degree,” she said. “I wish that [advanced degrees] had been available for me, other than an RN.”
For those determined to work as a nurse, Moreland said there will be challenges, but they will be worth it in the long run. “Be prepared to work any kind of hours, any kind of days, because it is important to know you can do that,” she said. “It will be worth it, in the long run, to initiate you to that world, and to gain that experience.”
A huge part of her success, especially at first, came from the support she received in the nursing program. “TMCC actually made it pretty easy on us,” she said. “It was challenging, I’m sure, to start a community college fifty years ago, but from my perspective, everyone there made an effort to make it easy for students.”
The effort not only enabled Moreland to pursue a lifelong, successful career as a nurse, but it also gave her an appreciation for the kind of hands-on training that many of TMCC’s programs still provide today. “It’s so amazing when I drive by the TMCC campus... I’m so happy that you exist. We need people in the community with these real, hands-on skills.”
TMCC 50th Anniversary Celebration
As a part of TMCC’s 50th Anniversary Celebration for the 2021-2022 academic year, we will be highlighting the success stories of our amazing alumni. Check back with our anniversary website for more details of the ongoing celebration or send your alumni success stories to our Marketing and Communications team.