The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Vanderbilt School of Nursing Dean to step down

After eight years as the Dean of Nursing and 30 at the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing (VUSN), Dean Norman plans to step down following the upcoming spring semester.
Dean+Linda+Norman
Daniel Dubois
Dean Linda Norman has served as Dean of Nursing at the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing (VUSN) since 2013. (Vanderbilt University/Daniel Dubois)

Dean Linda Norman announced her plans to retire following the spring 2021 semester after three decades of work at the Vanderbilt School of Nursing (VUSN), including eight as the Dean of Nursing.

“I’ve actually been thinking about this for a couple of years,” Norman said. “I think the school is in a fabulous place. The rankings are high. We’ve got a great senior associate dean team.  We’ve got fabulous faculty. It’s kind of the right time for the school.”

Norman wanted to pursue a career in nursing since her childhood and has always been drawn to the idea of helping people when they most need it. She received her B.S.N and MSN at the University of Virginia, followed by her DSN at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. 

She was hired by Dean Emerita Colleen M. Conway-Welch in 1991, joining Vanderbilt as Assistant Dean for Administration. A year later, she was promoted to Associate Dean for Academics and was then named Dean of the Nursing School in 2013.

“What drew me to Vanderbilt was the opportunity to do some very innovative types of academic programming and development of research,” Norman said.

When she came to Vanderbilt, the school had less than 400 students and only four master’s programs. The school now has more than 1,000 students, 11 master’s programs, a Ph.D. program started in 1993 and a Doctorate in Nursing Program started in 2008, per Norman. 

“Not only have we exponentially increased the academic programs available but over the last 15 years, we have also increased the focus with our faculty on research and scholarly productivity,” Norman said. 

Norman said that the most significant aspect of her time at VUSN was watching the school grow in its academic rankings, size and stature. She added that she is also proud of the innovation and growth the School of Nursing has done while maintaining financial stability. 

“We’ve gone from about rank 28 or 29 in the early 90s to where our Doctorate of Nursing Practice Program is ranked five and our Masters of Science in Nursing is ranked nine,” she said. 

Role in VUSN’s Diversity

According to Norman, another primary goal of VUSN is diversity. VUSN received the 2020 Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. VUSN also received an award for one of the Best Colleges for Men in Nursing from the American Association for Men in Nursing. According to Norman, the school continues to work hard to meet the needs of individuals from diverse backgrounds.

“We have a larger number of male faculty members,” Norman said. “We have reading and discussion groups for a diverse group of students. We have a chapter in the National Black Nurses’ Association.”

Norman also co-hosts the Dean’s Diversity Lecture Series as a part of the School’s efforts to acknowledge and counter racism and social injustice.

“The next step, I would hope, would be to really work on our goals towards racism and social injustice and get that inculcated within our curriculum, practices, research and our students and faculty,” Norman said.

COVID-19 and VUSN

Another important part of Norman’s role this past year has been pioneering a path for VUSN and Vanderbilt University during the COVID-19 pandemic. VUSN leads contact tracing efforts for the university under the direction of Norman.

Dr. Terrah Foster Akard, Director of the Ph.D. in Nursing Science Program, Associate Professor of Nursing and Medicine and colleague of Norman, praised Norman’s efforts and leadership during the pandemic. 

“She took tough times and created an impact, seizing an opportunity for VUSN to be a leader,” Akard said.

Student and Staff Relationships

Norman’s advice for aspiring students and faculty in the field is to get more involved in interdisciplinary studies. She notes an increased demand for neuroscientists, especially because the percentage of nurses with a Doctorate degree is minimal and the demand is great. She highlighted the importance of involvement in research. 

“We’re at a fabulous place with our academic programs; we really need to increase the number of researchers and the amount of innovation and discovery that we’re doing,” Norman said. “Research is no longer what it was 20 years ago; it is a team sport. Nurses and engineers, for example, are a really natural fit. You see wonderful combinations of nursing even with law, business and music.”

One of the things Norman says she will miss the most is her students. 

“Being able to participate in new student orientations, activities and commencement—those are the things that really are fun,” Norman said.

Katy Hansen, a former student of Norman’s and current registered nurse (RN) and instructor at VUSN, reflects on her relationship with Norman and her role in shaping her career. 

“She served as a mentor to me and taught me how to develop a career and build strengths to accomplish my goals,” Hansen said.

Hansen also commented on Norman’s open-door policy and her efforts to personally connect with her students.

“One of her strengths is the ability to be flexible and in relationships with other people in the school despite being a leader,” Hansen said.

Akard, another former student and colleague of Norman, also emphasized the influential role model Norman was for herself and VUSN.

“I’ve never felt anything but unending support throughout all roles she and I have been in,” Akard said. “She was always a cheerleader and an encouragement to seek leadership. I wouldn’t have even thought of being in a leadership position without her.”

Post-Retirement Plans

Looking beyond Vanderbilt to her life after retirement, Norman has plans to travel with her husband after the COVID-19 pandemic and do some non-scientific reading. However, she also plans to remain in touch with the school. 

“I plan to take a sabbatical year after my retirement,” Norman said. “We have some projects planned with the provost that might be focused on student and faculty health.”

Dean Norman says that Vanderbilt is a wonderful place and is proud of the school’s investment in everyone’s success.

“I’ve loved my time here at Vanderbilt; I think the university takes good care of its students, faculty and staff,” Norman said.

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About the Contributors
Rachael Perrotta
Rachael Perrotta, Former Editor-in-Chief
Rachael Perrotta ('24) is from Cranston, R.I., and majored in cognitive studies, political science and communication of science and technology and minored in gender and sexuality studies in Peabody College. She was also previously Senior Advisor and News Editor. If she's not pressing you for a comment, she's probably trying to convince you that she's over 5 feet tall, cheering on the Red Sox or wishing Nashville had a beach. She can be reached at [email protected].
Krisha Shah
Krisha Shah, Former Staff Writer
Krisha Shah ('24) is from Mumbai, India. When she's not writing, she enjoys reading, journaling, eating large amounts of good food, discovering music or hiking!
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