Skip to Content

College of Nursing


Erica Coward, MSN '16, and Dr. Carolyn Harmon

MSN Organizational Leadership graduates first two alumni

The Master’s of Science in Nursing Organizational Leadership program graduated its first two alumni in 2016, Erica Coward in summer 2016 and Ashley Ball in fall 2016. The MSN-OL program is a fairly new addition to the College of Nursing’s U.S. News & World Report #1 ranked online graduate degree programs, welcoming its first cohort in fall 2015.

Coward, a Columbia native, enrolled in the MSN-OL program after earning her BSN from USC Upstate in 2015. She studied full-time, allowing her to graduate with her master’s degree in just 12 months.

“My professors [at USC Upstate] embodied characteristics associated with leadership. They were able to encourage students to find ways to impact not only the lives of our patients but to contribute to the advancement of the nursing profession. I realized that the first step to accomplish this was to focus on learning more about leadership as it relates to nursing. I chose the MSN-OL degree program to satisfy my curiosity and thirst for knowledge, while being able to harness my writing, reading and research skills,” Coward said.

Dr. Carolyn Harmon, director of the MSN Nursing Administration program, has more than eight years’ experience in middle- to executive-level leadership in health care. She and Dr. Deb McQuilkin are the primary faculty for all leadership courses.

“Our MSN nursing administration program is distinguished among similar programs because it is innovative, flexible and accelerated,” Dr. Harmon said. “We have professors with diverse backgrounds including a practicing health care CFO teaching the finance course. We have the AONE core competencies embedded into our program to ensure students are prepared once they enter into practice after graduation.”

Graduates of the program are prepared to be nurse administrators, charge nurses, assistant nurse managers, nurse managers and directors. Students also can make a smooth transition directly from the MSN-OL program to the DNP nurse executive program at the College of Nursing.

“The discussion of various strategies, conceptual models and theories throughout the MSN-OL program has allowed me to incorporate evidence-based practice, outcome measurement, risk management, quality improvement metrics and health care economics into clinical practice on the unit level,” said Coward. “[I plan to] use all the information I learned from the MSN-OL to become a nurse manager.”


The MSN-OL program is an online, accelerated degree program that allows students to earn a master’s degree in 12-18 months. The program has a rotating 7-week application cycle. For more information, click here.