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College of Nursing Celebrates 65 Years of Wildcat Nursing

Even as they take a moment to celebrate their successes over the past 65 years, the College of Nursing looks to the future with the launch of a Certified Nurse Midwifery program.
Dean Gladys Sorensen officiates at the new UArizona College of Nursing building’s ribbon cutting ceremony in 1967.

College of Nursing Celebrates 65 Years of Wildcat Nursing

The permanent UArizona College of Nursing building under construction.

If you walk past the lush vegetation and calming fountain in the western courtyard and enter the main lobby of the University of Arizona College of Nursing in Tucson, you will come face to face with a wall of history and accomplishments dating back to 1957.

The faces of previous deans, faculty, students and staff throughout the years have been ensconced along the façade, archiving several generations of Wildcat Nurses who have walked the corridors, participated in simulated training, and eventually graduated to make their mark on the world. The UArizona College of Nursing, like the state of Arizona itself, has grown in leaps and bounds across the years, but 2022 represents a special year in its history, as it marks its 65th anniversary.

“There are so many accomplishments to be proud of in the past 65 years,” said Ki Moore PhD, RN, FAAN, dean of the college. “Recently, we have seen tremendous growth in our academic programs along with an increase in Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) training grants that support our students. Our entry to practice and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) specialties continues to grow and address critical health care needs across the country, especially during this pandemic, while graduates from our PhD program are becoming highly successful nurse scientists and leaders. But that is all built on the foundation of the people who have come before us and the history of who we are as a college.”

The College of Nursing Class of 1980 poses for a photo.

College Operations senior manager Isabel Chavez, who is celebrating her 20th anniversary with the college this year, is one of the first people to greet new faculty and staff members, touring them around the building and sharing the history of the organization.

“The 65th anniversary is meaningful to me because I’ve been fortunate to see the college grow significantly,” Chavez said. “I provide these tours because I believe it is important for new hires to learn the history of the program, while getting to know the layout of the building. I believe that when new hires feel connected to their workplace, they feel more welcome and are much happier employees.”

College of Nursing founding documents from 1957.

Chavez is also one of the few members of the college who has access to a historical storeroom, which houses numerous boxes of archived materials, photos and documentation stretching back to the very beginnings of the college. “We have been very careful to keep the College of Nursing original documents, articles, photos and memorabilia,” she said. “In those archival boxes, you can flip through photos of the inaugural faculty and early student cohort photos, or even see an actual nursing uniform from the 1960s. We were recently looking through the items and found the original application that was submitted to the State of Arizona requesting the initial approval for the college to be created. It has all the original signatures and required documents.”

Dr. Moore also shares a fondness for the history of the college, especially from when she started as an assistant professor in 1988 under Dean Claire Parsons.

“Claire was one of the first nurse scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and I will always remember and be grateful of her careful critique of my applications. I received my first NIH grant in 1990, and the project focused on the effects of central nervous system treatment for childhood leukemia. Claire was instrumental in that grant application and helping me start my research career off on the right foot.”

Claire Parsons served as the College of Nursing dean from 1987 to 1992.

As dean, Dr. Moore has met with several previous deans to learn more about the foundations of the college, but she says her relationship with Dean Gladys Sorenson was exceptional. Dr. Sorensen, who served as the second dean of the College from 1967 to 1987, passed away in spring of 2021.

“After being appointed dean, I had several lunch meetings with Gladys,” Dr. Moore said. “To me, Gladys was the most influential dean of our college. During her tenure, she led the development of one of the first PhD programs in the country and was instrumental in the establishment of Beta Mu Chapter, Sigma Theta Tau International.

“She was recognized nationally and internationally as a nursing leader, but always remained student focused. She remained current about new directions and developments in nursing throughout her retirement, but also enjoyed herself. She would always tell me stories of driving around Arizona in her red convertible. She was very proud of that car and was definitely a woman before her time!”

Gladys Sorensen served as the second dean of the College of Nursing from 1967 to 1987.

Even through the uncertainty of the pandemic, the future of the College of Nursing has never been brighter. This year will no doubt inspire a renewed look at the past 65 years, while continuing to usher in “firsts” for the college, including new specialties, programs and ways of teaching. But the goal has always been the same: to discover new modes and methods of nursing science and impart them onto new generations so they can improve the health and wellness of communities around the world.

“My hope for the next five years is the continued success of our students and increased growth of our research portfolio,” said Dr. Moore. “We have four new endowed chair/professor positions to attract research-intensive faculty. We are launching a Certified Nurse Midwifery Program in conjunction with UArizona Health Sciences. And our Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program was recently ranked 23rd in the country and No. 1 in Arizona. I am confident that we will emerge even stronger and more resilient after COVID.”

This story originally appeared on the College of Nursing website.