BROOKINGS – For the first time in 19 years, South Dakota State University is starting a search for a new dean for the College of Nursing. Dean Roberta Olson, a 1964 graduate of SDSU, will retire in fall 2013, depending on the timing of the transition to the new dean.
“Graduating from SDSU and then being able to return as dean of the college has been a distinct privilege to give back to South Dakota,” said Olson, a Groton native. “I started learning about nursing here, and my education continues to this day. The entire state can be proud of our faculty, staff, students and graduates.”
Provost Laurie Nichols has appointed Dennis Hedge, dean of the College of Pharmacy, to lead a committee that will conduct a nationwide search for the College of Nursing’s next dean.
“Courage and audacity aren’t typical attributes associated with leaders in higher education,” Nichols said, “however, the innovations sparked by Roberta’s leadership took vision, bravery and nerve.”
When Olson returned to SDSU in 1994, the college had 136 new undergraduates admitted on an annual basis at two sites, Brookings and Rapid City. In January 2013, there will be room for 304 new undergraduates. These will include students in the regular course of study on the Brookings and Rapid City campuses as well as students in two accelerated programs in Sioux Falls and Aberdeen. The accelerated program – a yearlong course of study for students who already have an undergraduate degree – was created during Olson’s tenure.
Other accomplishments included increasing the number of graduate students from about 100 to more than 200, putting the master’s degree and Upward Mobility program online in 2002, adding a Ph.D. program in nursing in 2005 and starting the doctor of nursing practice degree in 2009.
Olson has no intention of resting on her laurels while a replacement is chosen. She’s working with the faculty on a strategic plan for the next five years to act as a guide for the new dean. She notes that there will be plenty of flexibility in the plan for the next dean to react to new opportunities and challenges.
The challenges for the new dean, according to Olson, will center on two areas: funding and faculty.
The next dean will need to secure funding sources for more scholarships, improved equipment like simulators and increased travel for students and faculty.
“Currently we work with the state’s Indian reservations,” Olson said, “but the college needs to provide more opportunities for national and international travel studies so our students and faculty can learn about other health care systems.”
Olson noted that most of the senior faculty in the College of Nursing is likely to follow her into retirement in the next five years. With the nursing profession facing a lack of nurses prepared to teach in higher education, SDSU’s own Ph.D. program has been an asset.
“We’ve had some success growing our own young faculty,” Olson said. “We need to keep moving that ship forward and continue to recruit qualified, doctoral-prepared faculty from outside.