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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion


A Brief History of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging in the Ross and Carol Nese College of Nursing

Bunton-Waller Scholars Program

History recalls a Georgia native named Calvin H. Waller who was the first black student admitted to Penn State in 1899 and became the first black graduate in 1905 earning his Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture. History also recalls Mildred Settle Bunton who in 1932 became Penn State’s first black alumna, earning her Bachelor of Science degree in home economics. When it comes to the specifics of nursing at Penn State the records are not as complete regarding the first students of color to enroll and graduate from the nursing program. Here however are a few facts about what we do know about diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in the nursing program at Penn State University.

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How and when did the nursing program start at Penn State?

In 1964, the Penn State Board of Trustees authorized the university’s first undergraduate nursing program. During the Fall semester of 1964, Dr. Edna Treasure became the first head of the Department of Nursing Education which was in the Penn State College of Health and Physical Education.

Who was the college’s first Male graduate?

In 1968, Joseph Sanker became the first male recipient of a baccalaureate in science nursing degree from the Penn State Nursing program.  

Who was the college’s first Black Administrator?

Laurie Gunter
Dr. Laurie Martin Gunter

In 1971, Dr. Laurie Martin Gunter, PhD, RN, FGSA, FAAN an African American woman was appointed as the Department Head of Penn State’s Nursing program. Dr. Gunter held a nursing diploma from Meharry Medical College, a Bachelor of Science in home economics from Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial University, a Master of Arts in education from Fisk University and a Doctorate in Human Development from the University of Chicago prior to her appointment as head of nursing at Penn State. Dr. Gunter served as head of the Department of Nursing from 1971 to 1976, and as interim department head from 1984 to 1985. She retired as Professor Emerita in 1987 after sixteen (16) years of service. She was a respected researcher who focused on nursing care of older adults. She was a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America and the American Academy of Nursing as well as an elected member of the Institute of Medicine (National Academy of Sciences). Dr. Gunter passed away on June 15, 2015.

Who was the college’s second Black Administrator?

In 1985, Dr. Marion Gooding, EdD, RN became the fifth head of the Penn State Nursing Department and the second Black administrator in the college’s history. She served as department head from 1985 to 1987, during which time the Nursing Program was still part of the College of Health and Physical Education. Dr. Gooding received her diploma in nursing from Saint Mary’s School of Nursing, a bachelor’s and master’s degree in nursing from Teachers College, Columbia University and a doctorate in Educational Administration in Higher Education from Vanderbilt University. Prior to her appointment at Penn State University, Dr. Gooding served as the Dean of the School of Nursing at Tennessee State University.

Dr. Marion Gooding

When did Penn State’s nursing program expand to become a school of nursing?

In 1989, the Board of Trustees approved the creation of the Penn State School of Nursing.

When did the school start the Vallance Lecture?

In 1997 an endowment was established in memory of Jean Vallance, one of the first certified registered nurse practitioners (CRNPs) in Pennsylvania. The endowment enables the establishment of the Jean Vallance Lecture in Nursing Innovation. This annual lecture gives students, faculty, and alumni the chance to learn how current research is leading to new and exciting patient-care delivery approaches.

When did the school expand its focus on geriatrics?

In 2007 the school established the Hartford Centre of Geriatric Nursing Excellence. Today the college still has this focus on geriatrics through the Tressa Nese and Helen Diskevich Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence (CGNE) that implements innovative strategies to enhance the expertise of the next generation of gerontological nurses, educators, and scientists.

When did the school become an independent unit at Penn State University?

On July 1, 2008, the Penn State School of Nursing became an independent academic unit. Director Dr. Paula Milone-Nuzzo became the schools inaugural dean and Dr. Raymonde Brown was named the first Associate Dean for undergraduate Programs and Outreach. A year later in 2009 the Nursing program celebrated its 45th anniversary with a new Simulation Lab and the establishment of the Dean’s Endowment for Excellence and Innovation. On September 20, 2013, the Penn State Board of Trustees approved the renaming of the School of Nursing to the College of Nursing. 

When was the Multicultural Student Nurses Association founded?

The Multicultural Student Nurses Association (MSNA) was founded in the Spring of 2020 by then nursing students Jessica Satterthwaite and Kezia Mlenga who are both class of 2021 alumni.

When did the college of nursing hire its inaugural Associate Dean for Equity and Inclusion?

In October 2020, Dr. Sheldon D. Fields, PhD, RN, FNP-BC, CRNP, AACRN, FAANP, FNAP, FAAN was appointed the colleges inaugural Associate Dean for Equity and Inclusion. He came with extensive DEI experience and is building out the colleges DEI office.

When did the college start a chapter of the American Association of Men in Nursing?

The Penn State University Men in nursing chapter of the American Association of Men in nursing was established on July 30, 2021.

When did the Gunter-Gooding DEI Lecture series begin?

The inaugural Gunter-Gooding DEI Lecture series was conducted on October 5, 2022. It featured Dr. G. Rumay Alexander EdD, RN, FAAN and her topic was, “From the Hall to the Walls: A Racial Reckoning in Nursing”. The lecture series is named in honor of Dr. Laurie Martin Gunter and Dr. Marion Gooding two African American women who served as head of the nursing department at Penn State (see above). The series will be conducted each year in the Fall semester going forward and will bring in national DEI experts to talk on a variety of topics.


Nese College of Nursing named a National League for Nursing Center of Excellence