Message from the College of Nursing Dean: Summer 2021

Christine Kennedy, RN, PhD, FAAN

As summer approaches, there is much to reflect on as we remember where we were one year ago in Chicago and at the College of Nursing. Though the impact of this pandemic is still present and persists, our ability to persevere through innovation, creativity and compassion is evident. We are celebrating the accomplishments achieved during these unprecedented times and acknowledge that we can flourish during adversity.

On March 30, U.S. News & World Report released their 2022 Best Graduate School rankings. I am proud to announce that the CON has achieved its best rankings ever with four No. 1 ranks among more than 600 nursing schools across the country. Most notably, our ranking for the Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree program jumped seven places to move into the No. 1 spot. Additionally, our Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing, Pediatric Acute Care, and Pediatric Primary Care DNP programs were all ranked No. 1. Four other DNP specialties were ranked in the top five and our Master’s program moved up 11 places to No. 13. Congratulations to everyone who has committed their time, talents, and expertise to this continuous and impressive growth.

In addition to the academic accomplishments, our nurse scientists achieved several accolades at the Midwest Nursing Research Society’s 2021 Conference. Wrenetha Julion, PhD, RN, lead as the keynote speaker on team science and advancing health equity and three nurse scientists from the College received top honors for their significant research efforts:

  • Shannon Halloway, PhD, RN, assistant professor, was awarded the Harriet H. Werley New Investigator Award for her work on the effectiveness of MindMoves, a lifestyle intervention combining physical activity and cognitive training to delay memory loss in older women with cardiovascular disease.
  • Masako Mayahara, PhD, RN, associate professor, earned two Mid-Career Investigator Awards from MNRS Research Interest Groups for her research focusing on facilitating pain and analgesic management in hospice care.
  • Meghan Garland, CNM, APRN-C, doctoral student at the College, earned the MNRS/Aurora Health Dissertation Grant for her study to develop a culturally tailored physical activity intervention for pregnant women with limited access to high-quality care.

Congratulations as well to Urmeka Jefferson, PhD, RN, associate professor, for her acceptance to the Betty Irene Moore Fellowship for Nurse Leaders and Innovators at UC Davis. As part of the fellowship program, Jefferson will receive a three-year $450,000 grant to continue refining her newly developed app, Mother’s Milk Connection, that will streamline breastfeeding support and community services to African American mothers at home.

And amidst the diverse range of health challenges brought forth by the COVID-19 pandemic, Olimpia Paun, PhD, has turned her compassion to action by examining the alleviation of the emotional burden on caregivers needing to place their loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia, or ADRD, in nursing homes. As the pandemic has had a significant impact on the nation’s elderly population, Paun’s research aims to make an impact on the 16 million caregivers of ADRD patients facing difficult times at home.

With all that we’ve accomplished, there is even more to help us focus on a positive future. We now have a new Associate Dean for Equity and Inclusion of the College of Nursing, Wrenetha Julion, PhD, RN. As a nationally recognized nursing scholar with more than 20 years of experience at Rush, Julion’s leadership will aid the college’s strategic prioritization of equity and inclusion, which will help nurses reduce health disparities and improve outcomes in at-risk communities.

Finally, in early February, the College of Nursing began work on a 5-year strategic plan, facilitated by an appointed core-planning group of six members of our faculty and staff which then expanded to a 30-member task force consisting of students, faculty, staff and key stakeholders in the Chicago community, alumni, and our academic partners at Rush University Medical Center. Initial ideations focused on the following six domains:

  • Vision and Mission
  • Equity and Inclusion
  • Scholarship
  • Education
  • Practice
  • Healthy Work Environment and Learning Organization

These thought products are now being shared across several focus groups in the CON so we benefit from our entire community of staff and faculty input. We are currently working collaboratively to shape the vision of who we want to be five years from now. With the themes’ synthesis and prioritization, we will then narrow down to 3-5 key priority areas. We anticipate having the final plan by mid-July and will begin to operationalize these new priorities in Fall 2021.

I hope this news brings a sense of pride, ease and reason to enjoy the summer. We know that our alumni reflect the best the College has to contribute to nursing’s future and ask that you stay in touch along the way!

Christine M. Kennedy, RN, PhD, FAAN
John L. and Helen Kellogg Dean of Nursing