June 18, 2020

Dear School of Nursing Community,

photo of woman

As an introvert, I spend a great deal of time deep in thought.  I think about and reflect on many things…my family, work, our work family, our students, and current events to name a few.  Thinking and reflecting is my way of processing information, experiences, and emotions – helping me make sense of things.  The recent events triggered by the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests for social justice have kept me very busy taking in information, listening, thinking, and reflecting.  I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you what has been on my mind.

As your Dean, I have a platform for leading change.  George Floyd’s death has been a tipping point for many Americans and for social change.  Now, more than any other time in my lifetime, there is a swelling of support for social justice reform – an opportunity that must not be missed.  We cannot let this pass without thoughtfully engaging in change.

What does this mean for me, and you, and our SON family?  We will continue the work we began a few years ago and we will work even harder.  We have made progress in many areas.  I take great pride in the fact that we have significantly increased the diversity of our student body – particularly in the undergraduate program.  We removed unnecessary barriers in the admissions process and adopted an evidence-based holistic admissions process.  In addition to increasing student diversity, I have been very proud at our progress in increasing the diversity of our nursing faculty.  I am very proud of our community partnerships, particularly the Richmond Health and Wellness Program (RHWP) that not only provides access to wellness care for older adults living in low-income housing settings, but also supports clinical learning opportunities for our students where they have first-hand experiences with the impact of social determinants on the health of minority populations.  RHWP has been a hub for community-based research through one of the university-funded iCubed initiatives, and compliments other research initiatives with underrepresented populations led by our faculty and doctoral students.  I am proud of the multiple, ongoing professional development opportunities around diversity and inclusion that are made available to our faculty, staff, students, and friends.  I am also proud of our School of Nursing Strategic Plan Beyond 125: Connecting our Past to the Future which explicitly calls out diversity and inclusion within the core values, major themes, and activities.  All of these accomplishments have not happened by accident; rather, they have resulted from the intentional actions of members from within our organization.

As much as I like to tout these accomplishments, I know these efforts have not been enough, and we have so much more work to do.  It is my intention for diversity, inclusion, and equity to be the primary focus of the strategic action plan for FY20-21, by building on the School of Nursing strategic plan (previously mentioned) and the School of Nursing Diversity Plan.  What do I hope to see as a result of our work this year? 

·       I would like to see the full engagement of our faculty, staff, and students in the diversity, inclusion, and equity work within our school.

·       It is my hope that our faculty, staff, and students will gain greater skill, confidence, and capacity for dialog.

·       Enhancing our curricula so that our graduates will gain a deep understanding of the impact of structural racism on the health of black communities, and can demonstrate competencies necessary to address these issues in their practice.

In closing, these are some of the things that have been on my mind.  And let me be clear – I do not have all the answers.  But what I do know is that to be successful we must have the personal commitment of our faculty, staff, and students.  I ask all of you to open your hearts and minds so that substantial progress can be made – so that our values are evident every day.  Change happens one person at a time, and one organization at a time.  Thank you in advance for your energy and engagement in this important work.  I know that we can build a work and learning culture that will educate and elevate those we influence.

Jean Giddens, Ph.D., RN, FAAN
Dean and Professor

Categories Alumni and Friends, Announcements, Faculty and Staff, Students
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