When the UW–Madison School of Nursing first opened its doors to students in 1924, it made history as the first collegiate nursing program in the state. Now, almost 100 years later, the School of Nursing is positioned, once again, to be at the forefront of nursing in Wisconsin as it tackles racial disparities in the profession. In the last few years, faced with dual pandemics of COVID-19 and racial inequality, the School of Nursing made several determinations about necessary steps for the future. Chief of which was addressing a long-established and immediate need to make greater strides in diversifying the nursing profession.
Becky Berkan ’03, RN, CEN, is no stranger to expanding her comfortable limits. After stepping away from participating in athletic activities for a decade, she decided to get back into a sport that she had always enjoyed – running. She set out to train for the Madison Marathon in 2012, which would eventually get canceled due to extreme heat conditions. Rather than shrug her shoulders and call it a day, Berkan persisted with her training and eventually ran the Marine Corps Marathon in 2013.
There is an old saying, “Like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one.” For graduates of the UW–Madison School of Nursing, they become a branch on a great big family tree that anchors itself with roots that were established when the first 11 graduates of the School earned their degrees in 1927.
In 2024, a celebration of innovation, excellence, and care is on the horizon for the School of Nursing. 100 years ago, it would have been hard to imagine this impressive growth when the Board of Regents successfully established the collegiate program in 1924. Fast forward 100 years, and the School of Nursing consistently ranks among the best public nursing schools in the country, known for its innovative programming and partnerships, the career readiness of its graduates, and a commitment to a diverse workforce that reflects the populations it serves.
The University of Wisconsin–Madison is committed to ensuring all students have access to various forms of mental health and wellness resources. In January 2022, the School of Nursing formed the Wellness Advisory-Action Committee, a group that advises and assists in the development and enhancement of a culture of wellness to improve the health and well-being of all members of our School of Nursing community through wellness initiatives.
It is an honor to lead the UW–Madison School of Nursing at this special time in our history as we approach our centennial year, 2024. This milestone is an opportunity to celebrate the impact that our students, faculty, staff, and alumni have had on the health of populations by developing knowledge, providing care, informing policy, and on advancing the nursing profession itself.
As our students prepare to contribute to a nursing workforce with an aim to build health equity, they must be aware of and willing to disrupt sources of disparities. To do so, they must be encouraged to recognize, embrace, and trust their capacity to lead and create change. Cultivating a leadership mindset and identity is integral to nursing education. I can proudly say that it is a point of distinction at the SoN.
The class of 1972 reflects on fifty years of nursing service.
Over the course of her 45-year career, Phyllis Clark Jacobs ’65 shaped the landscape of mental health care and psychiatric nursing.