About the School

2019-20 About the school

The School of Nursing’s mission is to educate nursing scholars, clinicians, leaders, and health care consumers through the generation and dissemination of new knowledge developed in innovative scholarship to foster interprofessional evidence-based practice with the goal of advancing the health of individuals, communities, and systems, both locally and globally.

 

UConn’s School of Nursing has a timeless commitment to wellness and works to provide the exceptional education needed to succeed in this rapidly evolving profession. The School, founded in 1942, is located on the main campus in Storrs, Connecticut, with select courses offered at the regional campuses. The School is fully approved and accredited, and our undergraduate, graduate, and certificate nursing programs are supported by well-qualified faculty, many of whom are internationally renowned experts in their areas of specialty.

All full-time tenure track faculty members are prepared at the doctoral level. The School has access to adjunct faculty members from a wide variety of agencies in the state to serve as clinical experts and is affiliated with health care agencies within Connecticut as well as many others nationally. Academic Facilities consist of specialized services and resources for students provided in modern facilities, multimedia classrooms, and newly built academic centers.

Our Clinical Simulation Learning Center provides undergraduate students a location to transfer knowledge from theory to practice and graduate students an environment to practice advanced health assessment skills. The School’s Office of Nursing Research facilitates both student and faculty research.

Our Praxis

The philosophy of the School of Nursing is directed by six guiding principles, affirmed in 2019:

Professionalism in behavior, presentation, and conduct

Respectful of the richness and diversity of others and of self

Accountability for my actions

eXcellence in scholarship, practice, teaching, and service

Integrity, inquisitiveness, and innovation

Service to the profession and the community

 

Consistent with the metaparadigm of nursing, each person is viewed as a unique dynamic individual interconnected with others and continually interacting and responding with the environment. Environment is the context in which the human experience of health occurs. Humans have culturally derived values and beliefs that give meaning to life and health. Health is a non-linear entity characterized as a matter of personal meaning and interpretation; an ever-changing quality of living and dying influenced by myriad sociocultural, spiritual, economic, physical, developmental and psychological variables. Nursing practice is the convergence of caring elements, ways of knowing, person, health and environment.

 

Over 75 Years of Nursing Excellence

For over three quarters of a century, the University of Connecticut School of Nursing has prepared professional nurses who have gone on to provide leadership at state, national and international levels.

The School of Nursing was the first public institution in Connecticut to offer a program leading to a bachelor’s degree in nursing, and in the fall of 1942, thirteen students were the first to be enrolled into the newly established UConn School of Nursing. Other hallmarks of the school’s development include the establishment of the master’s degree program (1971) and the establishment of the doctoral degree program (1994).

Carolyn Ladd Widmer

A Phi Beta Kappa Wellesley College and Yale University School of Nursing graduate, Carolyn Ladd Widmer, served as the school’s first dean from 1942 to 1967. Prior to her arrival at UConn, she was the founding director of the School of Nursing at the American University of Beirut. Within her time as dean, UConn was rated in the top 25% of the nation’s schools of nursing by the 1949 survey performed by the National Committee for the Improvement of Nursing Services.

Josephine A. Dolan

The faculty appointment of the first-full time instructor, Josephine A. Dolan, in 1944, was of great importance. Dolan’s later revision to the Goodnow’s History of Nursing appeared in 1953, and became Dolan's History of Nursing, and later known as Nursing in Society. She was a national authority on the history of nursing and her revisions earned her two honorary doctorates, as well as the Connecticut Nurses’ Association establishment of an award in her honor for outstanding contributions to nursing education.

Through the Years

’40s and ’50s

Active Alumni

The UConn School of Nursing Alumni and Friends Society, established early in the schools history as separate from the UConn Alumni Association, performed a great deal of tasks for the school. This association financed student delegate trips to the national conventions, donated money to Miss Dolan for the purchase of materials pertaining to nursing history, established the Carolyn Ladd Widmer Scholarship to provide emergency financial aid to students in need, planned and conducted the ceremonies celebrating the tenth, fifteenth, twenty-fifth, and fiftieth anniversaries of the School of Nursing, and established a program of speaking about nursing careers in high schools around the state.

Changing Curriculum

Initially the School of Nursing’s curriculum was five years in length. Students in the first class were also enrolled in the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps, a federal program within the U.S. Public Health Service, designed to increase the number of nurses needed to meet the WWII crisis. One member of that pioneer class later became the first director of the Division of Nursing at Southern Connecticut State (College) University. In accord with national trends, in 1953 the UConn program was shortened from five to four calendar years. Approximately equal time was devoted to nursing and non-nursing course work at that time.

’50s and ’60s

Global Alumni

A survey of graduates conducted in 1966 revealed that alumni of the UConn School of Nursing held a broad array of national and international positions. The variety of jobs included the Peace Corps, armed forces, nursing service settings, academic institutions and religious orders. One graduate of the class of 1948 had been awarded the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service rendered during the Korean Conflict.

Sigma Theta Tau

In 1955, the Mu chapter of Sigma Theta Tau, the International Honor Society of Nursing was chartered at the University of Connecticut. It had been preceded by the 1948 establishment of the local nursing honor society, Tau Pi Upsilon, standing for the Greek words meaning “healers and sustainers of health.”

Training as a Joint Effort

Following Dean Widmer, Eleanor K. Gill led the school from 1967 until her retirement in 1980. In December, 1970, the UConn School of Nursing initiated and organized interdisciplinary team activities among the faculty and students from the health professional schools of Nursing, Allied Health, Dentistry, Medicine, Pharmacy, Social Work, and Nutritional Science in December, 1970. The organizations efforts resulted in the implementation of a new curriculum that advocated a joint effort of health schools in training nursing students. The combination of medical specialties in the establishment of interdisciplinary courses facilitated and enhanced the effectiveness of teaching and learning nursing, ultimately bettering the rendering of health care.

’70s

MS Program Begins

In 1971 the first class was admitted to the School of Nursing’s Master of Science program designed to prepare nurse educators and master clinicians, and later, nurse managers. Two graduates of that decade later completed doctoral studies and went on to become deans of schools of nursing, one at St. Joseph College and one at her alma mater, the University of Connecticut.

Growing Numbers

By 1980, 146 nurses had completed the rigorous courses of advanced study and by 1995 the number exceeded 500. Current students continue to have an impact on health care through their advanced practice and by presenting their research findings at regional and national meetings.

Storrs Becomes Home

Throughout the beginnings of the UConn School of Nursing, many students found that they had to traverse from a wide range of areas in Connecticut in order to fulfill their nursing curriculum. Originally, Storrs, Hartford, New Haven, Greenwich, Norwich, and Middletown comprised the multiple areas of teaching. In 1975, the Faculty White Papers set a milestone and decided the destiny of the school by setting forth their desire to have Storrs as the location of the entire faculty, student body, and all physical resources. This step, taken by the faculty, not only strengthened the ties between students and faculty, but also centralized the School of Nursing’s curriculum at Storrs.

’80s and ’90s

Marlene F. Kramer was Dean of the school from 1980 through 1987. During her tenure as Dean, the school expanded its research mission and revised the curricula for undergraduate and graduate programs. Also under her leadership, the Alumni Association became an important force in the life of the school.

Beverly Koerner was Dean from 1988 through 1993, and while in office she helped in the further expansion and dedications for the School of nursing. In 1991, the School of Nursing building, which originally housed the university’s first infirmary, was renamed the Carolyn Ladd Widmer Building in honor of the school’s first dean. In the same year, the School’s Center for Nursing Research was founded and the university acquired the professional book collection of renowned nurse leader, Virginia A. Henderson, thereby enhancing the research resources for both students and faculty.

In 1992, the school’s 50th anniversary was further marked by the dedication of a room in Storrs Hall honoring Josephine A. Dolan, Professor Emeritus and renowned nurse historian, who had been a School of Nursing faculty member for 35 years. Three years later she donated a valuable collection of papers which created the core for a designated history of nursing collection in the new Dodd Research Center.

Barbara Redman served as dean from 1995 through 1998, followed by Dean Laura Dzurec from 2001 to 2006, then Dean Anne R. Bavier from 2007 to 2011. Each dean continued to add to the growing environment at the University of Connecticut by improving the curriculum, supporting research, and continuing a tradition of excellence.

The history of the UConn School of Nursing is evolving daily as new techniques, faculty, and research findings enhance the student’s ability to render care to each patient. From meager beginnings, the school has drastically expanded into the powerhouse of institutional training it is today. Every faculty member, alumni, and student body have contributed to the establishment of one of the nation’s top nursing schools, and the continuation of these members work will add further insight and accomplishments to the long list held at the University of Connecticut.

2000s and 2010s

The School made significant advances in nursing education throughout the 2000s with the integration of interactive patient simulation mannequins in the on-campus simulation lab and the inauguration of full-semester clinical education abroad programs in Cape Town, South Africa, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. The School began its Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program to develop advanced clinical practice, institutional leadership and policy analysis. The 11-month post-baccalaureate program, the Master’s Entry into Nursing (now Certificate Entry into Nursing, or CEIN) began and quickly expanded the nursing workforce. Dean Laura Dzurec and Dean Anne Bavier led these visionary innovations in nursing education and research. The School expanded its interdisciplinary and interprofessional teaching and research through strategic faculty hiring in the fields of medicine, education, biostatistics, technical communication, and nutrition science.

In 2012, the 15,000-square-foot Widmer Wing addition to the school’s existing space in Storrs Hall opened its doors. The addition includes state-of-the-art classroom and laboratory facilities, including high-tech simulation technologies.

The School celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2017, marking the occasion with a gala for alumni, donors, faculty, and staff.

By 2019, the School of Nursing had over 600 pre-licensure students in more than 700 contracted clinical sites, over 130 master’s degree students in 5 specialty areas, and almost 100 doctoral students in the Ph.D. and DNP programs, educated in Storrs Hall and its state-of-the-art Widmer Wing. Under the leadership of Dean Regina Cusson, Dean Carol Polifroni, and current Dean Deborah Chyun, the School of Nursing engages advanced interdisciplinary research through its Center for Advancement in Managing Pain, the Center for Corrections Health Networks, and Conversations About Health Analytics, Technology Transfer, Evaluation and Research (CHATTER). Other research strengths include neonatal, infant, and maternal care, diabetes care, and geriatric care.

Widmer building watercolor painting by Alice Eschholz
The Carolyn Ladd Widmer building, built in 1919, was the University of Connecticut’s first infirmary. The above is a watercolor painted by Alice Eschholz ’54 for her class reunion in 2001.

Buildings and Archives

Completed in 1919 at a cost of $47,732.42, the Widmer building was the University of Connecticut’s first infirmary. A substantial building, it was built of red brick on a stone foundation with a slate roof and attached wooden porches. It contained an open ward for patients, several private rooms, office space and a large solarium with a fireplace.

Located next to Swan Lake, then called Duck Pond, the infirmary was surrounded by a grove of tall trees until a hurricane destroyed many of them. The original setting was a valuable adjunct to any treatment for ill students that was offered at the time.

The School of Nursing first occupied the Widmer Building, also known as “the cottage,” in 1950 when the present day infirmary was opened. Conversion of the old infirmary’s open ward into a classroom, and the private rooms into offices, made the space suitable for academic purposes. The new accommodations also provided the expanding school with much appreciated relief after almost a decade of being in confined quarters in the Home Economics building, which is now known as the Design and Resource Management building.

From the mid 1950’s until the 1968-69 academic year, the building was shared with the School of Physical Therapy. Essentially, one wing of the building was assigned to each school. The basement room served as a combined library and conference room, and a small adjoining area contained hydrotherapy facilities and a men’s shower and locker room.

Some school of nursing alumni recall that for many years some of the class and office rooms still retained call-lights above the doorways to summon the nurses who had cared for the first occupants of the building. Additional renovations in the late 1960s further modified the building’s interior space to meet academic needs. Other indicators of the evolution of the school are display cases and wall plaques which mark students’ and faculty awards for scholarly achievements and the 1955 establishment of the school’s Sigma Theta Tau chapter.

Despite considered thought to preserve the building by moving it to another site, and despite its being declared an historic landmark, structural deterioration of the 77-year-old building and exorbitant costs for its relocation prohibited that possibility.