• Policy and Leadership Undergraduate Scholars (PLUS) Program

Policy and Leadership Undergraduate Scholars (PLUS) Program


To foster the leadership potential of undergraduate nursing students by demonstrating the impact and responsibility that professional nurses hold in health care and beyond.


To promote a transformative experience that produces nursing leaders that will advance the nursing profession now and into the future.


  • Preparing professional nurses to embrace the opportunities their role provides
  • Fostering an understanding of advocacy in order to discover how policy impacts practice and populations
  • Finding one's voice through exploration of authentic leadership

Summary / Overview

The SON Policy and Leadership Undergraduate Scholars Program, which is offered in parallel with the BSN program, is a co-curricular opportunity for UTMB baccalaureate Summer entry nursing students interested in becoming future nurse leaders and advocates for patients and the nursing profession. Students will foster leadership skills and learn more about health care policy and the nurse's role in influencing change. The program allows students opportunities to learn from nurse leaders, various health care professionals, and those involved in the legislative process. Emphasis is placed on nurses' impact on health policy.

Program Details

Each PLUS student cohort (5 students) will participate in two modules per semester. The modules will rotate throughout each academic year, so students complete all eight before graduation. Must maintain a 3.0 GPA during the BSN program. Students will learn about the nurse's role as a leader and how to be actively involved in health care policy; and participate in special events designed to elevate leadership potential, including networking dinners with local leaders, as well as events that broaden their prospective on health care policy, such as Nurses Day at the Capitol in Austin.


Each cohort of PLUS students will participate in two modules per semester. These modules will rotate throughout each academic year so students complete all twelve prior to graduation. Students will experience unique opportunities such as shadowing nurse leaders, attend events related to health care legislation, and network with nurses in a variety of different professional areas. Through these experiences, students will learn more about their own leadership styles and what makes an effective nurse leader.


Meet our Inaugural class of PLUS Students

Johanna Almendarez

Johanna Almendarez grew up in San Antonio and credits her family's motivation and encouragement for her journey into health care. After serving as a radiology intern, her decision to pursue a nursing degree was solidified. Following three years volunteering at a hospital, she was given the opportunity to observe surgeries, aid in the NICU, assemble charts, and familiarize herself with the health care field. Within a year, she was promoted to assistant center director, where she trained new instructors, monitored the floor, and completed initial assessments. At the University of Texas at San Antonio, she was elected president of Students for a Peaceful Society. She also was the founder and president of the Horticulture Club and led the restoration of UTSA's greenhouse.

Leaders, by nature, should be teachers — they should educate their subordinates of not only the algorithm, but the reasoning behind it, Almendarez asserts. While leaders should be teachers, everyone is a learner. Leaders should be inclusive and encourage diversity for the valuable learning experience that comes with a difference of perspectives.

Molly Malota

Molly Malota holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Texas A&M University. While attending Texas A&M, she was a member of many organizations, was a student worker at Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, and volunteered at CHI St. Joseph Hospital on the pediatric floor and in the ICU. After graduation, she started working as a clinic assistant in the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District.

There are many qualities that make someone a good leader, including being able to communicate effectively, knowing how to work with a team, and being able to delegate, notes Malota. I think one of the most important is staying positive and determined in the face of adversity. Leaders are faced with many different challenges constantly, and I think that how they react to these challenges can also inspire confidence in a team and can help lead to the success and achievement of their common goal.

Anita Mammen

Anita Mammen completed her prerequisite courses at the University of Houston with a focus on public health and health care policy. She was an active member of Alpha Epsilon Delta, a pre-medical honor society that volunteers with underserved and refugee communities to provide free basic health care. She also served as Immunization Ambassador where she led her classmates in promoting up-to-date vaccinations to patients to reinforce overall health.

Good leaders have the ability to communicate with their team effectively, and exhibit patience when educating team members on a new topic, says Mammen. Having a leader who exhibits concern for the team and their well-being ensures that colleagues are willing to respect and adhere to the standards that they set.

Andrea Perez-Abreu

Andrea Perez-Abreu earned her Bachelor of Science in psychology, with a minor in health, at Texas A&M University. She has served as a student Spanish translator under the New Student Conferences en Español for Texas A&M University, and as a student assistant for the Texas A&M College of Medicine. As a Spanish translator, she quickly learned that being able to communicate with a person in their native language could alleviate stress and elicit a sense of gratitude. It was an incredibly humbling experience to witness how such a simple act — a shared culture and language — could provide comfort and improve outcomes, she recalls. Andrea Perez-Abreu believes that becoming a Texas A&M Opioid Task Force Ambassador further advanced her desire to be an advocate for those in need.

An effective leader empathizes with others, appreciates different cultures, advocates for the truth, respects different points of view, and leads with reverence, she says. Leadership in nursing requires functional partnership with other health care providers, sophisticated people skills, effectual patient-advocacy skills, contribution to the ongoing reform of the health care system, and endless pursuit of improving the delivery of care.

Lori Rhode

Lori Rhodes's journey to a health care profession began during her studies at San Jacinto College, where she also worked part-time in a small Family Practice clinic. Juggling motherhood, work, and her classes, she graduated with a bachelor's degree in biology focused on pre-health. During her time at San Jacinto College, she had the opportunity to develop strong skills as a mentor and trainer to colleagues and students.

When a person leads from a place of mutual understanding, they can earn respect from the team and effectively communicate and advocate the needs of the group, Rhodes says. A good leader recognizes that supporting each team member in doing their best is what makes the team as a whole its strongest.

Program Coordinator

Meredith Ford | SON Undergraduate Studies

Meredith Ford MSN, RN, CNE