Dean urges Class of 2021 to work for health equity and autonomy

MSN graduates wearing masks and regalia. Michael Booth, Austin Rockenhaus, Ashley Allington

Under a tent at Recreation Field 1 on Vanderbilt’s East side, the Vanderbilt School of Nursing Class of 2021 reassembled for Investiture on May 15. The joyful celebration reflected a mix of tradition and variations necessitated by pandemic precautions, and marked the first time some participants had been on campus since COVID-19 hit in March 2020.

Dressed in academic regalia, faculty emeriti Susie Adams and Melanie Lutenbacher process into Commencement 2021Banner bearer Melina Handley, DNP’21, led a procession that included Dean Linda D. Norman, DSN, FAAN, the Valere Potter Menefee Professor of Nursing; student marshals Michael Booth, MSN’21, and Sarah Hodges, MSN’21; alumna association president Hannah Lowe, DNP, MSN’14; faculty and new faculty emeriti past seated family, friends and graduates, who did not process into the tent due to safety precautions.

Dean Norman, FNP graduate Carol Yoder & Courtney PittsChancellor Daniel Diermeier conferred graduates’ degrees via video, commending them for opening their minds to new ways of thinking and instructing them to go forth and provide healing care for humankind.

In a change with tradition, the school incorporated a pinning ceremony into the Investiture for those graduates finishing their programs in May and those who had not yet participated in a pinning event. Norman gave background on the significance of pinning for the nursing profession, explaining that the school presented pins to MSN graduates and lavaliers to DNP graduates in a tradition traced back to Florence Nightingale. She then formally welcomed them to the nursing profession.
DNP graduate Rebecca Silver accepts the VUSN Founder's Medel from Dean Linda Norman
Norman introduced Class of 2021 Founder’s Medalist Rebecca Silvers, DNP’21, MSN’13, as the class’s outstanding student and presented her with the Founder’s Medal. Silvers, who earned a doctor of nursing practice degree and certificate in global health, is a pediatric critical care and neurosurgery nurse practitioner at University of California San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospitals. She intends to continue that clinical practice, her faculty position at UCSF School of Nursing, and global health development work with the UCSF Institute of Global Health.

DNP graduates Emily Brignola and Josh Waddell in front of the VU podiumNorman began her remarks by thanking the graduates for their patience, adaptability and can-do attitudes during the changes brought about by the pandemic.

In what was her final Investiture address as dean, she also charged graduates to work for health equity and full practice authority for advanced practice nurses. “Health inequities have played a major role in the course of this pandemic, and that is wrong. Social determinants of health influenced who became infected, who got sick, who was hospitalized, and who died,” said Norman, who will step down as dean at the end of June.

Dean Norman, Monaliza Gaw, Terri Allison stand on stage “All of us must work to overcome health disparities, combat social determinants of health, improve access to care, and change policy,” she said. “Nurse-centered care can, and does, make a difference in improving health equity for individuals and communities. It is my hope that full scope authority will be enacted in every state as a result of the lessons learned from the pandemic.”

Dean Norman, MSN graduate William McConnell, Jennifer Wilbeck pose for a photo in front of the VUSN bannerThe event included recognizing five distinguished faculty members who had been named emerita by action of the Board of Trust at the request of the dean, provost and chancellor. Susie Adams, PhD, PMC’13, FAANP, FAAN; Ann Minnick, PhD, FAAN; and Sheila Ridner, PhD’03, MSN’00, FAAN, were named professor of nursing, emerita. Melanie Lutenbacher, PhD, FAAN, was named Associate professor of nursing, emerita. Betsy Weiner, PhD, FACMI, FAAN, was named professor of nursing, emerita, and senior associate dean of informatics, emerita.

Faculty, graduates and guests give Dean Linda Norman a standing ovationLater in the ceremony, Senior Associate Dean for Academics Mavis Schorn, FACNM, FNAP, FAAN, announced that the Board of Trust had conferred upon Norman the title of dean emerita, effective July 1, 2021.

Schorn also recognized Norman for her impact on the School of Nursing. “For the past eight years, you have led the Vanderbilt School of Nursing with wisdom, inspiration, dedication, decisiveness, and humility. For 30 years, you have been a steady and successful influence sewn into the fabric of the school and then out to the world through its graduates,” Schorn said. “It has been an honor to work with you and to be part of your vision for the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing.”

Linda Norman and Marilyn Dubree hug

Traditional investiture activity of hooding by program directors was replaced with a group hooding ceremony. Graduates put their regalia hoods over their own heads before being called individually to walk across the platform to be recognized. In lieu of their physical degrees, graduates received apricot roses symbolizing the nursing discipline.

Faculty Jennifer Kim, Dean Linda Norman, Melissa Smith, Leslie HopkinsThe 2021 VUSN class included 347 Master of Science in Nursing and 46 Doctor of Nursing Practice graduates. Three PhD in Nursing Science students were awarded doctorates in Vanderbilt University Graduate School ceremonies.

Nurse-Midwifery graduates and faculty pose after Commencement ceremonies. All are in academic robes and black masks.

Photography: Susan Urmy, VUMC

Images from top:

Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP graduates Michael Booth, Austin Rockenhaus and Ashley Allington reunite after finishing their program in August. Booth was one of VUSN’s student marshals.

Faculty Emeriti Susie Adams and Melanie Lutenbacher walk in procession. They were two of five VUSN faculty honored with emeriti status by the Board of Trust.

Dean Norman and FNP Director Courtney Pitts stand behind MSN graduate Carol Yoder, whose cap bears the words “Strength and honor are her clothing. She shall rejoice in time to come.”

Dean Linda Norman presents the School of Nursing Founder’s Medal to DNP graduate Rebecca Silvers, who then placed it around her neck in keeping with pandemic precautions.

DNP graduates Emily Brignola and Josh Waddell congratulate each other on earning their degrees.

Dean Norman, DNP graduate Monaliza Gaw and DNP Program Director Terri Allison pause for a photo.

Marilyn Dubree, Executive Chief Nursing Officer, VUMC, embraces Dean Norman after 2021 Investiture and the announcement that Norman has been named dean emerita. The two have worked together for three decades.

Professor Jennifer Kim, Dean Linda Norman, Assistant Professor Melissa Smith and Associate Professor Leslie Hopkins pose for a photo in their bright academic regalia.

Nurse-midwifery graduates pose with faculty as they celebrate Commencement.