Boosting its commitment to underrepresented nursing leaders, Vanderbilt University School of Nursing has secured a grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation for its innovative leadership program, Academy for Diverse Emerging Nurse Leaders.

The academy is a groundbreaking, five-day immersive fellowship designed to train nurses from underrepresented backgrounds in nursing leadership who are in early leader roles in health systems and nursing schools and those committed to expanding and supporting diversity in nursing leadership. It is produced in partnership with Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The program began in November 2022 with Rolanda Johnson, PhD’98, FAAN, professor of nursing and School of Nursing associate dean for equity, diversity, and inclusion, and Mamie Williams, PhD, Vanderbilt University Medical Center senior director for nurse diversity and inclusion, serving as co-directors. Johnson is named as the principal investigator for the grant.

The program—and the Moore Foundation grant—are designed to meet a very specific challenge in nursing leadership.

“The number of administrators from diverse backgrounds is limited in nursing education and health care systems. Students and the nursing workforce need leaders with shared experiences and those who support diversity in nursing,” said Pam Jeffries, PhD, RN, FAAN, ANEF, FSSH, dean of the School of Nursing. “The academy is the vision of two talented leaders and educators, Rolanda Johnson and Mamie Williams. They saw a need to create and build a pipeline for diverse leaders at Vanderbilt and throughout health care and academia nationally.”

The primary goal of ADENL is to equip nurses at the early stages of their managerial careers with education, tools, and support to navigate the challenges of being leaders committed to expanding and supporting diversity in nursing leadership.

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“The academy provides a unique opportunity for a diverse group of emerging nurse leaders to come together, develop networking opportunities and peer-to-peer opportunities, and gain information from leadership experts within the nursing profession and other disciplines,” Johnson said.

ADENL’s curriculum covers key leadership skills such as strategic planning, team building, and finance. Additionally, the program prioritizes personal development, focusing on mediating biases and understanding how personal experiences influence leadership approaches. It also addresses specific topics such as health equity, racism mitigation, and productive conflict.ADENL offers fellows the opportunity to engage with leaders across diverse sectors, emphasizing that the challenges tied to justice, equity, and diversity permeate beyond just nursing.

The academy’s vision extends beyond the program, closely tracking each fellow’s project development and career progression to measure the initiative’s long-term impact.

Upon completing the academy, fellows venture into real-world leadership projects. Current projects include support initiatives for male nurses and specialized programs for international nurses in hospitals.

With the goal of extending the ADENL initiative on a national scale, particularly in collaboration with HBCUs, the program aspires to mentor and shape 80 national nursing leaders over the next two years. The Moore Foundation grant will allow Vanderbilt to offer the program twice a year, expand recruitment, and assist with various program needs, including faculty travel, scholarships for fellows, and funding for individual leadership projects.

The inaugural ADENL cohort in 2022 witnessed participation from 18 fellows spanning nine states. Their experience was enriched by insights from 31 national and regional faculty members.

Williams said that fellows count the relationships they make with other students as a significant asset of the program. “They formed very strong bonds and very strong relationships with one another,” she said. “I think that will continue throughout their careers, and these will be people that they can rely on to offer them advice, support, and encouragement.”

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The fall 2023 ADENL session welcomed 16 participants from November 13-17, 2023. The new spring academy, made possible with the Moore Foundation grant, will be held March 18-22, 2024. More information is available here.

In a fitting tribute to her commitment, Johnson was recently honored with the Joseph A. Johnson, Jr. Distinguished Leadership Professor Award. The award celebrates a Vanderbilt faculty member who has proactively nurtured an academic environment where everyone feels valued, and diversity is celebrated.

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