School Adds Four New Assistant Professors, Expands Research Enterprise

October 16, 2017—The University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Nursing continues to grow its renowned research enterprise with the addition of four assistant professors: Traci Snedden, Kristen Pecanac, Kim Whitmore, and Mio Jang. The school now has 20 tenured or tenure-track faculty members, and strategic plans call for continued faculty expansion over the next six years.

“We are committed to rigorous scientific discovery and broad dissemination of our findings in an effort to advance nursing education and practice,” says Dean Linda D. Scott. “Our work strengthens both nursing science and education, transforms care delivery, and promotes wellbeing for all individuals, families and communities throughout Wisconsin and beyond. Our new faculty members reflect our commitment to science and the nursing profession, and they are generating important knowledge that will improve healthcare and lives.”

Traci Snedden earned her PhD from the University of Colorado in 2014 and joins the faculty after a two-year joint postdoctoral fellowship with the UW–Madison School of Nursing and School of Medicine and Public Health. She studies the impact of concussion symptoms and cognitive effects on executive function and overall quality of life in high school and collegiate students. Most specifically, her current work focuses on academic performance post-concussion. Snedden anticipates building a multidisciplinary toolkit that offers interventions that leverage the expertise of school nurses and university-based health services in supporting students’ overall recovery.

“The high school and collegiate experiences are a critical period of growth,” Snedden says. “Students are increasing their independence, making career decisions, and planning a future. If their academic performance is compromised because of the effects of concussion, there could be potential long-term implications. Post-concussion classroom support is vital.”
Kristen Pecanac earned her PhD from UW–Madison in 2016 and then completed a one-year post-doctoral fellowship at the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital in Madison. Pecanac studies how communication strategies used during end-of-life care conversations can affect the choices individuals and families make as well as the stress they experience as a result of the difficult decision-making.

“Before their death, 40 percent of older adults need to make decisions about limiting or stopping treatment,” Pecanac says. “The tricky thing is how you measure communication as being good or bad. In other words, what does the best communication look like?”
Pecanac wants to identify the components of good communications so that providers can engage in conversations that help individuals and families understand the options available to them, make the best decisions possible, and minimize the stress they feel during the process and afterwards.

Kim Whitmore comes to UW–Madison from Loyola University Chicago, where she was Director of the Graduate Health Systems Management program. Whitmore will also serve as an affiliate faculty member in the Public Health Program within the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. She received her PhD from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee in May 2017.
Whitmore is interested in better understanding and addressing the needs of families of children with special healthcare needs using a health services and systems approach. Her current research is focused on examining the respite care needs of family caregivers.

“Unmet respite care needs can have profound effects on families. Caregivers often experience high levels of chronic stress, which has been found to be comparable to the stress of combat soldiers. Marital stress is common and, as a result, divorce rates are high. We also see greater financial strain and higher abuse and neglect rates in these families,” Whitmore says. “There are a lot of different types of respite care. We need to determine ways to identify what works best for individual families and how providers can help families access what they need.”

Mio Jang came to UW–Madison from the Duke University School of Nursing, where she was a post-doctoral fellow for two years. She received her PhD from the Yale University School of Nursing in 2015. She studies family dynamics and environment. She looks at how parental roles and parent-child relationships relate to childhood obesity, and she focuses her research on how parental stress, depression, and sleep influence children’s diet and physical activity. She hopes to identify ways to help families recognize and reduce stress so that it is easier to make healthy choices and prioritize wellness.

“I think we have been focused on behavioral change – eat healthier; move more. It is true, but I think we need to focus more on fundamentals, such as stress levels that drive individuals’ behaviors,” Jang says, “and I want to look at that concept in the family environment. Eventually I want to develop an intervention that helps parents manage stress, practice mindfulness, and access social support. Social support makes a big difference to parents and families.”

“Our new nurse scientists bring compelling research programs into our existing research enterprise, and their areas of inquiry reflect our longstanding commitment to care across the life span from pediatrics and family care through aging populations with attention to symptom science, palliative care, and mental health,” says Susan Zahner, associate dean for faculty affairs.

A top-tier research institution, UW–Madison ranks sixth in the country for its annual research expenditures, which exceed $1 billion. In addition to its research enterprise, the UW–Madison School of Nursing offers traditional and accelerated undergraduate BS–Nursing degrees as well as an online RN-to-BSN completion program called BSN@Home. The school also offers a joint BS-MPH degree offered with the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree, a PhD program—including an early entry track for undergraduates interested in research—and graduate-level clinical nurse specialist, mental health and nurse educator certificates. For more information about the school, visit


CONTACT: Jennifer Garrett, (608) 263-5160,