May 1, 2017
Dear College of Nursing Faculty, Staff, Students, Alumni and Friends
I am writing to let you know of my plan to step aside as Dean of the Fran and Earl Ziegler College of Nursing, effective later this summer, and to thank you for all you have done to make our college a place of excellence for those we serve. Since I became Dean nearly eight years ago, our college has achieved so much in all areas of our mission. I find myself reflecting on the contributions all of you have made to bring our college to where it is today. Accomplishments are too numerous to mention in full, but I want to cite a few.
• Our intentional move to the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education accreditation is now well established. The U.S. News & World Report ranked the College of Nursing as one of the best nursing schools for online nursing graduate programs for 2017 and for master’s and doctor of nursing practice programs for 2017 and 2018. Our DNP and PhD programs are ranked in the top 50 for best value in nursing.
• I am so proud of our students at all levels. Our BSN graduates have exceeded the state and national average on their licensure examinations (over 95% pass rate!), and our MSN-prepared nurse practitioners have achieved a 100 percent pass rate on their certification exams for the past five years. Even with busy schedules, our students provide an average of 8,600 community service hours each year.
• Our interdisciplinary OU in Arezzo program, now in its third year, provides students the opportunity to engage in comparative studies abroad, and develop a depth of understanding that helps them appreciate the diversity we have in Oklahoma.
• The College of Nursing has been a leader in interprofessional education and will continue to do so. As an interprofessional team we can keep patients at the center of all that we do. Training students in interprofessional care is more important now than ever, and I am proud of our faculty and students as they interact with other disciplines while honoring individual and family needs.
• Our five endowed faculty positions bring world-class expertise in nursing science to the university. The Donald W. Reynolds Center for Geriatric Nursing Excellence, the only nursing initiative funded by the Reynolds Foundation, prepares PhD faculty to educate future nurses and craft solutions to improve the health of older adults. At this year’s Midwest Nursing Research Society our students received 1st place honors in the BSN, MSN and PhD research categories! Building on that program, we launched a women/child health initiative with scholarships and program funding for doctoral students to create strategies to promote better health for Oklahoma families.
• The Care Management Program, serving individuals of all ages with chronic care or disability issues since 1995, provided in 2016 over 63,000 clinical service hours, helping people age in place. We also continue an important education collaboration with the Oklahoma State Department of Health to prevent falls in nursing homes statewide. And just launched is a new maternity health and coaching program for families in Oklahoma City.
• We have a growing base of alumni and friends that provide support and funding for our programs and student scholarships. In 2015, many of you joined in the celebration as we accepted the generous gift that renamed our college the Fran and Earl Ziegler College of Nursing. In fiscal year 2016, Alumni and Friends provided $1.4 million in support for our programs, research, scholarships and other priorities.
• Our faculty continue to demonstrate excellence and enjoy a strong level of respect across campus and nationally. We have made solid progress across our 10 programs and across all three campuses that comprise our one college. Our commitment to diversity and inclusiveness is among our most important achievements. Every day, I see our faculty living their roles as strong academic leaders, modeling for our students what it means to provide professional care for people from all cultures and backgrounds.
• We have a strategic plan and a set of priorities in place, and the dedicated resources to carry them out. Succession planning for program directors and other leadership positions has been successful, and I know that we have an exceptional team in place.
The College is indeed in great shape! All this to say, with the College naming completed, a well-developed leadership team in place, and key benchmarks achieved with substantive success, I saw a naturally occurring break point for the College, and this is a natural time to step aside from the Dean’s role.
For me, what is next on the horizon includes continuing my university and college faculty affiliation in a part-time framework. In addition, I plan to use my leadership skills in a different capacity. I intend to work in the area of leadership development, perhaps regionally or nationally. I believe I have a responsibility to further leadership development, particularly among women, at this critical juncture.
I will officially step aside as Dean later this summer, and Provost Sanders and I have discussed and are jointly committed to a smooth transition and the important work to be done on high priority projects between now and then. This transition will be completed over the summer so that new leadership can begin with the 2017-2018 academic year.
It has been my honor and privilege to serve as Dean of the College. I am exceedingly positive about the College’s future. With the support of our university colleagues, clinical partners, and the skill of our faculty and staff, the College will continue the trajectory of leadership and sustained excellence in nursing education, research and practice innovations. A heartfelt thank you to all who have been partners in our success.
Lazelle E. Benefield, PhD, RN, FAAN, FGSA
Dean and Parry Endowed Chair