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Watch the Class of 2020 Congratulations Video from School of Nursing

Play video icon is on top of photo of Dean Linda Norman in front of VUSN building

Dean Linda Norman, the Vanderbilt School of Nursing Senior Associate Deans and Program Directors share their good wishes and congratulations for the VUSN Class of 2020 as they move into the next phase of their nursing careers.



Linda D. Norman, DSN, RN, FAAN
Dean, Vanderbilt University School of Nursing
Valere Potter Menefee Professor of Nursing

Good morning Vanderbilt School of Nursing graduates. I’m sorry we couldn’t be together in person on this landmark day. The COVID-19 pandemic has been disruptive in so many ways, but I know that you, as advanced practice nurses, understand the necessity of social distancing. We will get together on campus next year for a wonderful celebration at Commencement. Please plan on attending. I look forward to hearing about all you’ve been doing and experiencing—I know you will have some fascinating stories and new accomplishments.

Today, we have reasons to celebrate. You have finished your courses, papers, exams, clinicals, and scholarly projects. Your focus is something other than school! Many of you have already started or progressed in your nursing careers. That’s something to celebrate! You are nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, nurse informaticists, nurse leaders, and doctorally trained nurse leaders. You are both the present and the future of nursing—and the world needs you more than ever.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put nurses and the care they provide in the spotlight. People see nurses risking their well-being to help desperately ill people. They see nurses solving problems and providing quality, necessary health care. World leaders, government officials, media, and the public recognize the need for well-prepared, educated nurses in our health care system at all levels.

That is the environment in which you find yourself in today. It’s a lot of responsibility. But you are well-prepared. You know what to do. You know when to take charge and when ask for help. When to problem-solve and when to discover the evidence. When to diagnose, when to treat, and when to just hold a frightened patient’s hand.

You have been well educated. I, your faculty, and the leadership at Vanderbilt School of Nursing have confidence in you. Here’s what else they wanted you to know on this important day:


Senior Associate Dean for Academics
Professor of Nursing

Congratulations, graduates. Graduation is a time to pause and reflect on your accomplishments. Reflect on coming to Vanderbilt for the first time, sitting in orientation, meeting future classmates, faculty…think about some of those very firsts. The first skills lab, the first paper you wrote, perhaps the first patient you met, how far you’ve come. Your expertise is needed in the world. Keep learning, keep leaning into challenges and keep thinking about how best way to help human kind, especially those who are the most vulnerable among us. How far you’ve come and how much more you will do. Again, for today, congratulations.


Betsy Weiner, PhD, RN-BC, FACMI, FAAN
Senior Associate Dean for Informatics
Centennial Independence Foundation Professor of Nursing
Professor of Biomedical Informatics

On behalf of the Frist Nursing Informatics Center, let me congratulate you. We know from experience that you are the most tech-savvy graduating class we’ve ever had. We’ve tried to provide you with most of the technology tools to help you in this next phase of your contributions to nursing. We expect you to go out and rock the world!


Mariann Piano, PhD, RN, FAAN, FAHA
Senior Associate Dean for Research
Nancy and Hilliard Travis Professor of Nursing
Postdoctoral Fellowship Director

Happy graduation and congratulations to all of you, your family, friends and significant others that have been on this journey all the way with you. This is not how we envisioned celebrating your graduation. It took a virus to rock and change our world, and not surprisingly, nurses have been on the front line all along the way. In your different roles, as either a staff nurse, nurse practitioners or nurse scientist, you will have the responsibility and opportunity to save and change the lives of so many individuals, families and communities. Life will take you down many paths but remember life is now and life is full. To quote one of my most favorite people, an optimist, Dr. Theodore Seuss, “Today is your day, you’re off to great places, your mountain is waiting, so be on your way.”  Happy, happy graduation!


Becky Keck, DNP, RN, NEA-BC
Senior Associate Dean Administration & Operations
Chief Administrative Officer

I’d like to take this opportunity to send my heartfelt congratulations to each one of you. This is a very special day. You’ve worked hard, you’ve accomplished a great deal and now it’s time for you to celebrate with the people that are important to you in your lives. I want to share just a brief message with you. I had a colleague to send me a YouTube video called the “Great Realization.” Many of you may have seen this video, and it really talks about the things that we’ve learned about ourselves during the COVID outbreak. I know that … I suspect that most of you have learned that you’re resilient, that you’re adaptable, that you’re a problem-solver and most of all, that you’re caring. You’ve had to care for yourselves, your classmates, friends, family and for others. Some of you have been in a caregiver role, some of you had to care for yourselves and for others in unique ways during this timeframe. Caring is at the heart of our profession, as we are both an art and a science, and caring is the art component of what we do. I suspect each of you will enter our profession with a renewed passion for what we do and how we care for others. I want to congratulate each of you and wish you the best for your careers going forward. I hope you’ll take time to enjoy this special day and celebrate with the people that are important in your lives. You’ve accomplished a great deal. I hope you’ve had a wonderful experience as part of the School of Nursing, and I hope that you’ll come back and visit us often. Have a wonderful day of celebration and know that we are all with you in a virtual capacity, enjoying and celebrating with you. Thank you.


Pam Jones, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN
Senior Associate Dean for Clinical & Community Partnerships
Associate Professor of Nursing

Good morning, from a beautiful spring morning here in Tennessee. I want to add my congratulations as we celebrate your graduation. This is a special year and a special class. It’s particularly fitting, that 2020 is the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. I have personally witnessed the incredible contributions of advance practice nursing and nurse leaders to the health and wellbeing of our communities and this country. I know each of you is using your passion, intellect and advanced skills to improve the health of your community. I want to add a special congratulations to Dr. Jane Mericle, our Founder’s Medalist. It was my pleasure to be her committee chair and advisor through her course of studies at the school. Take time to celebrate and refresh. You deserve it, you’re amazing. Stay well!


Brian Widmar, PhD, RN, ACNP-BC, CCRN, CNE, FAANP
Assistant Dean for Academics, Advanced Nursing Practice
Director, Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Specialty
Associate Professor of Nursing

Congratulations! We’re so lucky to have you making a difference in health care right now. We’re so proud of you, and I wish you all the best.


Terri Allison, DNP, ACNP-BC, FAANP
Assistant Dean for Academics, Doctoral Nursing Practice
Director, Doctor of Nursing Practice Program
Associate Professor of Nursing

Congratulations graduates! You have accomplished much. We know you will go on to do great things. And we are honored to call you alumni of Vanderbilt University School of Nursing.


Karen D’Apolito, PhD, NNP-BC, FAAN
Director, Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Specialty
Professor of Nursing

Congratulations to everyone. I’m know you’ll do great things in your new role.


Jennifer Wilbeck, DNP, APRN, FAAN, FAANP
Director, Emergency Nurse Practitioner Specialty
Professor of Nursing

Congrats Class of 2020. Your faculty celebrates you in all of your accomplishments at this time.


Leslie Hopkins, DNP, FNP-BC, ANP-BC
Director, Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Specialty
Assistant Professor of Nursing

Hello everyone! On behalf of the AGPCNP faculty, let me offer you our heartfelt congratulations on this wonderful achievement. We’re so very sorry not to be able to celebrate with you in person. But we are nonetheless proud of each and every one of you and we’re excited to see where advanced practice nursing takes you in the future. Please keep in touch with us. Be well and congratulations.


Courtney Pitts, DNP, MPH, FNP-BC
Director, Family Nurse Practitioner Specialty
Associate Professor of Nursing

Congratulations to the MSN class of 2020, especially the FNP and Nurse Midwifery FNP dual cohort. The FNP faculty are so proud of you all. You trusted the process and you finished the course. We are now proud to call you colleagues. Represent VUSN well. Again congratulations!


Marci Zsamboky, DNP, PMHNP/CNS-BC, CNE
Director, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (Lifespan) Specialty
Assistant Professor of Nursing

Congratulations Class of 2020. Along with your family and friends, we are so proud of you. As things got tough, you all got tougher. It’s time for you to celebrate now! Again, congratulations!


Richard Watters, PhD, RN
Director, Nursing and Health Care Leadership Specialty
Associate Professor of Nursing

Congratulations on your well-deserved success. I’m very, very proud of you and your achievements. Although we are in these uncertain times, I’m comforted that you and your nurse colleagues will be our future nurse leaders. Thank you and once again, congratulations.


Ginny Moore, DNP, WHNP-BC
Director, Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Specialty
Associate Professor Nursing

Congratulations Class of 2020. Kudos to you all on your grace under pressure, our resilience and accomplishments. Congratulations and happy graduation.


Brittany Nelson, DNP, CPNP-PC
Director, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner -Primary Care Specialty
Assistant Professor of Nursing

Today is a wonderful day to celebrate. Congratulations on completing your degree and on choosing a career to serve others. You make the world a better place. Shine on Vanderbilt graduates.


Julia Phillippi, PhD, CNM, FACNM, FAAN
Director, Nurse-Midwifery Specialty
Assistant Professor

Congratulations graduates. In the time that I’ve been with you, I’ve been able to see you bloom as skilled midwives, as colleagues to one another and as human beings. As you stretched and expanded to meet what was requested of you and the goals you set for yourselves, I’m honored to call you my colleagues now.


Patricia Sengstack, DNP, RN-BC, CPHIMS, FAAN
Director, Nursing Informatics Specialty
Associate Professor of Nursing
Nursing Informatics Executive, Vanderbilt University Medical Center

You did it! What a huge accomplishment. You’ve just taken the next steps to take your career to the next level. You are now a Vandy grad! Congratulations, and all my best wishes for your future success.


Sheila Ridner, PhD, RN, FAAN
Director, PhD in Nursing Science Program
Martha Rivers Ingram Professor of Nursing

Hi! Congratulations on such a wonderful achievement. The world needs you now more than ever! And I’m sure all of you will be superstars!


Dean Linda Norman

Every year since 1877, Vanderbilt has awarded a gold medal to each of its schools’ top scholars in honor of founder Cornelius Vanderbilt. I want to recognize the 2020 Founder’s Medalist from the School of Nursing. This year, the Founder’s Medalist is Jane Mericle, a doctor of nursing practice graduate who was a member of our first Executive Leadership DNP cohort. Jane was an outstanding student whose scholarly project focused on promoting nurse-manager professional well-being. Since finishing her DNP, she has been promoted to operational vice president, chief nursing and patient operations officer for Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children and Nemours Delaware Valley clinical sites where she leads strategic initiatives and serves as senior nurse executive. Jane, we are so happy for you. Congratulations on your remarkable achievement.

Graduates, today you have joined more than 10,000 Vanderbilt School of Nursing alumni around the world who make a difference in health care. You will make a difference to your patients and their families. You will make a difference to your co-workers, employers, workplace, and the nursing profession. You will change lives.

You’ve earned the highly respected Vanderbilt University School of Nursing degree. Your family and friends are proud of you. Your professors, preceptors, classmates, and colleagues are proud of you. Vanderbilt is proud of you and we look forward to what comes next in your professional journey. On behalf of Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, I wish you all the best in your nursing careers. Congratulations.