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Welcome to the Spring Semester 2023 from Dean Antonia M. Villarruel

Happy new year and welcome to the Spring semester!

As we look ahead at what the next several months will bring, and as we find ways to adjust to the many ways we have been impacted by ever-changing pandemic conditions, I ask you to continue to do three important things: take care of yourself, take care of each other, and take care of your School community. That sounds simple enough, but I know as well as anyone how hard it can be to take a step back to reset and move on when challenges arise, especially as we continue in a hybrid work environment. While I am pleased at the many changes we have made to facilitate remote work, I reflect on what has been lost and what has been gained. Morning and evening commutes are at the top of my list in that latter category! But I do miss the sense of community that comes from casual encounters in the hallways and in informal gatherings. Our Penn Nursing community—faculty, staff, and students—IS what makes us special, and I ask your help (as many of you have already done) in finding new ways to take advantage of and bring together our community. I’m very proud of our Penn Nursing community—not just proud of the inventive ways we have learned to do our work, but also the way we have responded to each other with humor, grace, and caring. I know this is not always easy—as hybrid work can be isolating—and we are not always aware of each other’s stressors.


Showing up—for one another and for our School—matters. Staying connected and being attuned to what’s happening at Fagin Hall does make a difference. It was great to see so many of you at last month’s holiday party and December Completion Ceremony. I urge all of you—regardless of your role—to be engaged and to participate in our events, especially several special opportunities coming up to recognize the life and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

  • As you might have seen in a recent Penn Nursing Digest, the DEIJAB Collaborating Committee is bringing together groups from around the School for an event titled, Honoring the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—A Celebration of Service, Culture, and Inclusion. This interactive educational fair will take place in the lobby of Claire Fagin Hall on January 25 from noon to 3PM. The work our students, staff, and faculty are doing in the community will be highlighted, there will be hands-on activities to benefit communities in need, and cultural exhibits on hand will include food tastings. If you would like to host a table, bring a potluck dish, or suggest a service project, please complete this survey by January 13 (next steps will be sent to you). We welcome all participants! If you only wish to attend the event, please fill out the same survey by no later than January 18.
  • Penn Nursing’s celebration of Dr. King’s example of service and inclusion will continue in February with a lunch and lecture with Sandra Lindsay, DHSc, RN, MS, MBA, CCRN-K, NE-BC, Director of Nursing for critical care at Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Medical Center; she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for becoming the first American to be vaccinated against COVID-19. During the ceremony, President Biden said Lindsay had “poured her heart into helping patients fight for their lives” throughout the pandemic. Her journey, I know, will be inspiring to us all. Stay tuned for details as we finalize the date for this event!

There are several additional events happening very soon as well. If you’ve been following along with Penn Nursing’s collaboration with Project Knitwell, there’s a virtual event on the evening of January 10 on patterns and advanced techniques. On January 11, take a break from noon-2 PM in the lobby of Fagin Hall for a Tips and Treats event to welcome students back to campus. Students may also register here for a special nursing students-only pilates class at Pottruck to be held on January 14. The Nursing Wellbeing Champions group is also organizing a School of Nursing-wide Wellness Walk competition this month—details will be available in your email inbox soon.

This semester really is jam-packed with great opportunities. Looking ahead to March, we have the following:

  • March 2: the annual Penn Nursing Innovation Accelerator pitch event—always a highlight of the year to foreground the innovation work coming out of nursing!
  • March 16: Alumni Book Club event with honorary alumna Ann Wolbert Burgess, D.N.Sc., APRN, FAAN. Dr. Burgess is an internationally recognized pioneer in the assessment and treatment of victims of trauma and abuse, and author of A Killer by Design: Murderers, Mindhunters, and My Quest to Decipher the Criminal Mind. For those of you who watched the Netflix series Mindhunter, the character of Dr. Wendy Carr is based on Dr. Burgess.

Do keep your eye on the calendar for information about these and other great events throughout the semester. Your presence and enthusiasm are always appreciated.

New Staff

I’d also like you to help me welcome new staff and faculty who have joined us over the last several months. This includes Kenrick D Cato, PhD, RN, CPHIMS, FAAN, who has been appointed Professor of Informatics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in the Standing Faculty Clinician-Educator track and Tito Borner, PhD, Research Associate in the Academic Support Staff; as well as several coordinators in Family and Community Health and Biobehavioral Health Sciences, program coordinators for the Leonard A. Lauder Community Care Nurse Practitioner Program and the Eidos LGBTQ+ Health Initiative, and right here in the Dean’s Office. We also welcome several new ITS and Office of Academic Affairs staff, and new staff in the Fuld Pavilion for Innovative Learning and Simulation.

There is much to celebrate as we begin spring semester, and I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish—together. It may still technically be winter, but I am put in mind of something punk rock musician Henry Rollins often says: In winter, I plot and plan. In spring, I move. Let’s treat spring semester as a true spring—let’s move together and do great things.