First DNP Awarded

Walk in Her Boots: First DNP Student Graduates from Saint Mary’s College

For over 170 years Saint Mary’s College has been educating young women. Through excellent academic programs and a focus on campus community, the College helps guide women to be strong, passionate individuals who utilize their bachelor’s degrees to improve the world around them. For the first time in the College’s long, rich history, an alumna is setting out to change the field of nursing armed with Saint Mary’s first Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.

On Saturday May 19, Brianna Acosta became the first student to graduate from Saint Mary’s with a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. This was the second time Acosta participated in a Saint Mary’s graduation ceremony; she also graduated with her bachelors in nursing in 2010. She then practiced nursing in her home state of Texas while attending Texas Women’s University for her master’s degree but always knew she would want to continue her education with a DNP. “After obtaining my master’s degree, I was elated to discover that Saint Mary's was starting a DNP program. There was no question I was going home to finish my doctorate,” she said.

Currently employed as a Board Certified Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas, Acosta said she always knew she would become a nurse. “Nursing is a family tradition. I chose the major, but the profession chose me.” Acosta’s passion for nursing stems from her love of educating patients and managing their care. In her current role as a nurse practitioner, Acosta uses her expertise to implement change to the nursing field and be a leader in healthcare.

"The DNP expanded my knowledge and expertise in the nursing industry, and I see the role of the DNP as fusing nursing with business. We are entrepreneurs in our own right."

For now Acosta plans to stay where she is at Parkland Hospital and use the experiences from the DNP program to improve the quality of healthcare provided to patients in the Dallas area. She is interested in teaching adolescents about healthy lifestyles, nutrition, and physical fitness. Her advice to prospective Saint Mary’s DNP students is this: “Be patient. Stay calm. Take one step at a time. Ask questions! Enjoy being a student. Trust your faculty.”

The primarily online DNP program began enrolling students in 2015. Students from all over the country take two to three online courses per semester while still working in their hometowns, and meet on Saint Mary’s campus once a semester. 

Learn more about Saint Mary’s DNP program.