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Research and Evidence-Based Practice

At Brigham Young University, Inspiring Learning is an initiative that encourages significant hands-on opportunities for undergraduate students to participate in faculty research or projects which contribute to the discipline. One-on-one or small group mentoring sessions with faculty members give undergraduates an educational experience that is typically only available in graduate school. Instead of striving to become a major research university, BYU has a goal to become the best undergraduate teaching university in the nation, and undergraduate mentored learning has become a significant component of achieving this goal.

To create additional opportunities, the BYU College of Nursing established a $1 million endowed fund campaign in 2016; current amount is $572,000. The interest from this fund is allocated for college grants to hire research assistants or find ways to include students in faculty research or contribution to the discipline projects.

Below are examples of how faculty members have used mentored learning to enhance the education of nursing students:


Erin Marshall and Lacey Eden: Developing Utah Immunization Modules

Success Stories

  • Using college inspiring learning money, nursing students Sarah Rushton and Camry Rogers worked with associate teaching professor Gaye Ray in her study of family health history. The students conducted 100 interviews and analyzed the data. Professor Ray was selected to share the results as a podium presentation at the Western Institute of Nursing annual conference last April 2019.

    During the 20-minute presentation, Ray did not participate. Instead, both students stood at a podium in front of a large hotel conference room and spoke about their project with Ray, its data, and its implications for nursing. They did not use notes, read from their slides, or even stammer for answers during the Q&A session. Many of the session attendees were surprised to find that Rogers and Rushton were not Ph.D. or master’s candidates, but undergraduate students. Ray says her research assistants had to acquire knowledge and expertise in subject areas beyond classroom options. This required them to present findings naturally and to be able to discuss their research outcomes with interdisciplinary educators and healthcare professionals—some of the benefits of inspiring learning.

  • In 2016, associate professor Dr. Beth Luthy mentored several nursing students, including graduates Brooke Saunders (BS ’14), in a collaborative project to create online immunization notes for the WIC nutrition education program. By obtaining a grant from the college, Dr. Luthy was able to allow Saunders and her peers to assist in the writing of program materials that promote immunizations and their benefits. The information was available on the Women, Infants, and Children program website as a learning option participants can complete to receive continued supplemental funding.

    Because of this opportunity and faculty guidance, Saunders successfully fulfilled the role of an RA and learned skills as an undergraduate nursing student. Even though they did not use research tools to collect and analyze data, they learned that small actions could make a difference. Through additional donations, more students can have a similar experience and appreciate the value of mentoring in the nursing profession.

  • Assistant teaching professors Dr. Leslie Miles (AS ’83, BS ’99), Dr. Linda Mabey, and Dr. Julie Valentine have shared their knowledge with many students—including John Rossi (BS ’14), Kelsie Pead (BS ’15), Elise Otteson (fifth semester), and Sage Williams (third semester)—during the past two years in their research with sexual assault victims. These students said that joining a faculty research project was an invaluable experience that enhanced their nursing education. Many were involved from the project’s start and even learned firsthand how to receive approval to initiate a research idea and the administrative steps needed to conduct the project. Possibilities for further nursing research and career paths branched out from the experience. Together the group shared their findings through written and oral presentations to other nursing students, professionals, and colleagues.

    The RAs said it was a great benefit to learn directly from a faculty member. Because the faculty mentors had obtained college and university grants and other sources of funding for the studies, the RAs were also monetarily compensated for their time. The college’s endowment campaign will allow more students to work directly with faculty members in their projects.

  • For a master’s thesis, Elizabeth “Libby” Willmore (BS ’16) is researching ways to improve end-of-life care for dying intensive care patients and their families. People who are dying need care in four areas - physical comfort, mental/emotional needs, spiritual issues, and practical tasks ( This study identifies ways to support the patient, and involves working directly with nursing professor Dr. Reneā Beckstrand (AS ’81, BS ’83, MS ’87), who completed the initial research and has studied this topic during the last24 years.

    As part of the university’s Inspiring Learning Initiative, Willmore learned first-hand how to work ethically and accurately. She organized and analyzed large data sets, and collaborated with Beckstrand on how to determine and present the major themes. Together they will learn ways nurses can make a difference to support someone who is dying.

  • Associate teaching professor Karen Lundberg (AS ’79) and assistant teaching professor Debra Edmunds mentor students and involve them in their studies on refugee and immigrant experiences. Rachel Eddy (BS ’15), and capstone students Hortencia Gutierrez, Madison Pachner, and Lindsey Doman developed project-planning, management, and computer skills during the project. They also learned to disseminate findings by helping the faculty give a podium presentation at the North American Refugee Health Conference in Canada last summer and by preparing an article for journal submission.

  • The inspired learning started in a gerontology course. Associate teaching professor Dr. Blaine Winters paused a lecture to say he was writing a paper on post-fall assessments. 25% of seniors who fracture a hip from a fall will die within 6 months (, and this study could improve that statistic. Sixth-semester nursing student Jeana Escobar was intrigued and asked to learn more.

    Within weeks, she was hired as a research assistant and began meeting with Winters to develop a standardized assessment tool for nursing homes. The experience allowed her to help create the tool, write training video scripts, and present details at a key nursing leadership conference.

  • Assistant professor Dr. Bret Lyman is currently mentoring two RAs in his learning history research project. Lindsey Shaw and Lisa Echols (both in their fifth semester) have worked with him since he started the project, and Kalene Mears (BS ’15) was involved until her graduation last December. If he had additional funds, Dr. Lyman would be able to include as many as four more nursing students in his research. So far, his RAs have learned that research can be exciting as well as complex by following the rigors of research procedures and standards. Instead of having them carry out assigned tasks, he helps his students propose subprojects that they can complete independently; together they understand the scope of the project, and then they each undertake tasks to complete it. Because of this guidance in the mentored learning environment, Shaw, Echols, and Mears have gained much more than a greater understanding of nursing—they have practiced knowledge application, organization, and leadership skills.

  • With encouragement from assistant professor Dr. Deborah Himes, three nursing studentsapplied for (and received) summer internships at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center in Columbus, OH.James Reinhardt, Cortney Welch, and Christin Hickman were among 15 undergraduate students selected nationwide.

    For 14 weeks, they learned about cancer research from OSU faculty, analyzed data (from a Himes study) and derived conclusions. Each presented their information in a poster, orally to a panel of PhD professors, and will publish their study in a scholarly article.