School of Nursing dean leaves U for Washington

Enrollment and research funding more than doubled in Edwardson’s tenure.

Hayley Odom

As dean of the University’s School of Nursing, Sandra Edwardson said she lost touch with her academic roots. On Aug. 31, she’ll be returning to those roots when she resigns from her current post to join a government health-care agency.

“As one of my colleagues said, ‘Deans get to be queens of broad, shallow knowledge,’ ” Edwardson said. “I want to increase the depth of knowledge in my own area again. I’ve been in the position for 14 years and it’s a good time for a break for me and the school.”

Edwardson will take a senior scholar position at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in Washington, for one year. After, she said, she plans to return to the University to teach in her area of expertise: health service research and administration.

Edwardson announced her resignation last fall. Joanne Disch will become the interim dean Sept. 1, until a new dean is chosen.

During Edwardson’s tenure, enrollment at the school and research funding more than doubled. She also started a satellite nursing program in Rochester, Minn., a postbaccalaureate program and a nurse residency program.

“She left the school in excellent shape,” said Jean Wyman, School of Nursing professor and Dean Search Committee co-chairwoman.

Wyman said one of Edwardson’s visionary accomplishments was the establishment of the Katharine J. Densford International Center for

Nursing Leadership. The center aims to improve health and health care worldwide through education.

“It’s great that she has the drive to continue her scholarship (at the University) and as a senior faculty member she will provide leadership in a different way to the school,” Wyman said.

Edwardson said the infrastructure is in place to propel the school into a national leadership position for research, and the faculty is on the cusp of launching major research programs.

But the school must face problems such as the long-term nursing shortage and address the organization of health-care services to come up with future solutions, Edwardson said.

Disch said the school aspires to become one of the top five nursing schools in the nation in the next few years.

“I think I owe her and the whole school owes her tremendous gratitude,” she said. “I feel very fortunate to be following her because she made sure the school has what it needs to be secure in the future.”

Edwardson said the most important quality in a dean will be leadership.

“The school is not only one of the major producers of nurses in the state, but it’s the flagship for nursing in Minnesota,” she said. “So leadership and being able to continue to work and develop research programs will be key.”