Alverno and Ascension form health care partnership

Working for a Healthier Wisconsin

Driven by mission. Rooted in the Catholic faith and our Franciscan values. United in the service of a healthier community.

These are the principles that Alverno College and Ascension Wisconsin have in common, and they now join us in a new and groundbreaking alliance.

Alverno and Ascension Wisconsin, part of one of the largest U.S. Catholic nonprofit health systems, are building upon an existing clinical relationship to create a strategic alliance of education and service. The goal is to develop a competent, mission-driven workforce that is prepared to meet the needs of the state’s rapidly evolving health care environment, from urban centers to rural communities. Ultimately, this alliance will serve to make high-quality health care more accessible and affordable throughout Wisconsin.

Specifically, Alverno will expand existing health care education programs and create new opportunities, including continuing education for employees at Ascension Wisconsin’s 24 hospitals and more than 100 clinics. Alverno students and graduates will enjoy guaranteed clinical placements and priority employment opportunities throughout Ascension Wisconsin’s network.

“This is a logical and desirable alliance for Alverno College,” says Alverno President Andrea Lee, IHM, PhD. “Providing accessible, high-quality and affordable health care to residents of the city, region and state, especially for those with limited access to care, is a highly recognized characteristic of Alverno health care professionals and of Ascension Wisconsin associates.”

Alverno and Ascension have also signed a letter of intent and are discussing combining the Columbia College of Nursing (CCON), already an Ascension Wisconsin ministry, with Alverno. Located in Glendale, Wis., on Milwaukee’s north side, CCON trains undergraduate and graduate nurses.

The alliance with Ascension, and the potential to incorporate CCON within Alverno, will expand our health care footprint in Wisconsin, a crucial strategic priority guiding our growth. This alliance leverages the strength of Alverno’s JoAnn McGrath School of Nursing and Health Professions, a widely recognized leader in health care education, as well as the synchronous missions of Alverno and Ascension.

“Health care is changing rapidly, so rapidly that demand for skilled providers cannot keep pace with the need, a clear indicator of the power of alliances such as this and others across the region,” Sister Andrea says. “Ascension Wisconsin and Alverno educators will have significant roles in advancing important conversations on health care delivery in the future. We are excited to continue the conversation and to move quickly to action.”

As this alliance takes root, early seed ideas generated by the Alverno campus community include ways to integrate such disciplines as art and music therapy, social work and business. The possibilities are many, and through it all, Alverno will continue educating graduates to positively impact their communities.


1848 Ascension Wisconsin traces its roots back to this year, when the Sisters of Charity founded St. John’s Infirmary in Milwaukee

1858 The Sisters of Charity, now known as the Daughters of Charity, open St. Mary’s Hospital in Milwaukee

1887 – The School Sisters of St. Francis found St. Joseph’s Normal School, the predecessor of Alverno College

1894 – St. Mary’s Training School for Nurses opens at St. Mary’s hospital in Milwaukee, and its first class of nurses graduates two years later

1901 – The predecessor to the Columbia College of Nursing is established in Milwaukee

1930 – The School Sisters open Sacred Heart School of Nursing

1950 – Sacred Heart School of Nursing officially becomes part of Alverno College

1999 – Two orders of women religious join together to form Ascension Health, a national Catholic health care system

2005 – Alverno begins offering a Master of Science in Nursing degree, the College’s second post-baccalaureate program

2016 – Health ministries once known as Wheaton Franciscan unite as Ascension Wisconsin, becoming the largest Catholic health system in the state

2017 – Alverno offers its first doctoral program, a Doctor of Nursing Practice (the first graduates earn their degrees in December 2018)

2019 – Alverno and Ascension Wisconsin announce a strategic alliance to develop a mission-driven workforce that is prepared to meet the needs of the state’s rapidly evolving health care environment

This article appears in the spring/summer 2019 issue of Alverno Magazine.

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