Vanderbilt University School of Nursing Associate Dean for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Rolanda Johnson, PhD’98, received the Vanderbilt University Joseph A. Johnson Jr. Distinguished Leadership Professor Award at the university’s Spring Faculty Assembly.
The award recognizes a faculty member who has proactively nurtured an academic environment where everyone feels valued and where diversity is celebrated. It is named for Joseph A. Johnson Jr., the first African American to earn a Vanderbilt bachelor’s degree and the first to earn a doctoral degree.
In recognizing Rolanda Johnson with the award, Vanderbilt University Chancellor Daniel Diermeier says, “Rolanda’s experiences in nursing — as a clinician, educator, researcher, and administrator — inspired her to make a difference in the lives of those who experience health disparities and inequities and are often overlooked. Her passion is educating nurses to better meet the healthcare needs of all populations and delivering high-quality, culturally sensitive care to all patients. Among her efforts at the School of Nursing was advocating for holistic admissions, contributing to more diverse enrollment.”
The chancellor concluded that Johnson is creating a path for continued equity, diversity, and inclusion improvement for years to come.
Johnson has positively impacted equity, diversity, and inclusion on regional, national, and international levels. She serves as membership chair for the Tuskegee University National Nursing Alumni Association, was the inaugural chair of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s DEI Leadership Network (DEILN), mentors for the AACN Diversity Leadership Institute, and a member of the American Nurses Association National Commission to Address Racism in Nursing Education Work Group. She co-founded Nashville’s chapter of the National Black Nurses Association. Johnson also served on the U.S. Pharmacopeia Health Equity Advisory Group.
At Vanderbilt School of Nursing, Johnson helps faculty create inclusive curricula and classrooms, offers guidance to student affinity groups, and is exceptionally skilled at recruitment, retention, and inclusion. Her research and scholarship focus on increasing EDI in nursing education and assisting vulnerable populations.
“Most recently, Dr. Johnson co-developed and co-directed the inaugural Vanderbilt Academy for Diverse Emerging Nurse Leaders, a one-week immersive for nurses who have been in leadership roles for less than five years,” says Pamela R. Jeffries, PhD, FAAN, ANEF, FSSH, dean of Vanderbilt School of Nursing. “This was an amazing week for 18 fellows from academia and healthcare systems all over the country. Many described the program as ’life-changing.’ The academy is well poised to be sustainable and in the long-term, will help to mitigate the diversity disparities evident in nursing leadership.”
Senior Associate Dean for Academics Mavis Schorn, PhD, FACNM, FNAP, FAAN, nominated Johnson for the leadership award. “She has advanced equity, diversity, and inclusivity by developing a strategic plan focusing on both recruitment of diverse individuals while also creating a welcoming environment where everyone feels like they belong,” Schorn wrote. “She led the efforts to create a diversity statement for the school and later led efforts to update it to include antiracism language. She has worked with all the admission committees to ensure the admission process is holistic.”
Johnson will carry the Joseph A. Johnson, Jr. Distinguished Leadership Professor title for one year.
“This award was a wonderful surprise,” she says. “I am humbled to receive this honor. While I am the honoree, the VUSN family deserves accolades for ‘WE’ have accomplished much and will continue to be leaders in diversity, equity, and inclusion in nursing and healthcare.”