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About the American Association of Colleges of Nursing
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) is the national voice for academic nursing representing more than 850 schools of nursing nationwide. AACN establishes quality standards for nursing education, influences the nursing profession to improve health care, and promotes public support of baccalaureate and graduate nursing education, research, and practice. 



AACN Recognizes Three Schools for Advancing Diversity, Inclusion, and Sustainability in Academic Nursing

Published November 22, 2021

Applications for the 2022 Awards Are Due January 15 

WASHINGTON, DC – November 22, 2021 - The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) is pleased to announce the 2021 recipients of the Diversity, Inclusion, and Sustainability in Nursing Education Lectureship Awards. Schools recognized this year for their strong commitment to diversity, inclusion, health equity, cultural humility, and community outreach include Augusta University (Georgia), Frontier Nursing University (Kentucky), and the University of Illinois Chicago. Representatives from these schools presented at AACN’s 2021 Diversity Symposium held on November 9 and 10 as a virtual event.

Dr. Pamela Cook, Dr. Geraldine Young, Dr. Phoenix Matthews

Pictured from left to right

Dr. Pamela Cook, Interim Associate Dean, Academic and Student Affairs, Professor, Augusta University; 
Dr. Geraldine Q. Young, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Frontier Nursing University; 
Dr. Phoenix Matthews, Professor and Associate Dean for Equity and Inclusion, College of Nursing, University of Illinois Chicago 

“I applaud the 2021 award winners for being intentional about making diversity, equity, and inclusion a cornerstone of their programs’ success,” said Dr. Deborah Trautman, AACN President and Chief Executive Officer. “With a focus on adapting systems and changing culture, these programs serve as exemplars for other nursing schools moving to create academic environments that welcome and respect students, faculty, and staff of color.”  

Following a competitive process that was open to all 840 AACN member institutions, the winning schools were cited for their success in recruiting diverse students and faculty to their programs as well as creating inclusive and equitable learning environments. With awards presented in three institutional categories, the following schools were honored:  

Public Colleges and Universities Award: Augusta University  

In 2006, Augusta University determined that its surrounding community was vastly more diverse than the actual nursing school population. The faculty implemented an aggressive plan to address this issue with these goals: 1) build capacity to sustain long-term growth in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI); 2) cultivate an inclusive environment where diversity is celebrated; 3) recruit and retain an academically talented and diverse student body; and 4) recruit and retain a capable and diverse workforce. 

From 2007 to 2020, the number of qualified applications from diverse backgrounds, 
including ethnic and racial groups underrepresented in nursing, increased from 14% to 30% of the total applications received. Enrollment of students from diverse backgrounds increased from 15% to 35% of total enrolled students. The college’s diversity statement sets standards for faculty, staff, and administrators, raises awareness of the need to promote DEI, and communicates the college’s commitment to advancing and sustaining DEI to all stakeholders. This statement was updated in 2018 to align with AACN’s commitment to equity in addition to diversity and inclusion. In addition, the college has exerted its influence through ongoing participation with the AACN Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Working Group (now the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leadership Network) since its inception in 2018. The college has served as the campus DEI innovator and leader.

Private Colleges and Universities Award: Frontier Nursing University 

Frontier Nursing University (FNU) is at the forefront as a leading activist for diversity in the nursing and midwifery professions. FNU has made diversity and inclusion a primary focus of the university’s mission and a measurable element of its progress. This commitment was formalized in 2010 with the implementation of the Diversity Impact Program. Since the implementation of this program, FNU has increased student of color (SOC) enrollment from 9% in 2010 to 24% in 2020. Progress has been made throughout the FNU community, including faculty, staff, students, admissions, curriculum, and training. Of note, FNU has five leadership positions filled by women of color: human resources director, chief diversity and inclusion officer, clinical director of the FNP program, director of campus operations, and a member of the board of directors.  

In 2018, FNU was awarded an Advanced Nursing Education Workforce (ANEW) grant 
from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. The ANEW program supports innovative academic-practice partnerships to prepare primary care advanced practice registered nursing students who will serve in rural and underserved settings. FNU expanded formal academic-practice partnerships with five sites in order to co-design, implement, and evaluate strategies for improved academic and clinical training in rural primary care settings. 

Academic Health Centers Award: University of Illinois Chicago 

For the past five years, the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) has been guided by a strategic plan that provides a clear roadmap for achieving its diversity, equity, and inclusion goals. Holistic review and admission processes have proven effective in identifying the strengths and skills of underrepresented minority applicants who may be overlooked in traditional review processes. In 2015, when the strategic plan was implemented, students of color represented 34% of the overall student body. In 2020, this percentage had risen to 48%, representing a 41% increase in overall diversity among students across all programs in the college of nursing. The undergraduate program met or exceeded strategic plan benchmarks for overall diversity (55% of all undergraduate students are students of color), Latinx students (23%), and males (16%).  

Since instituting its diversity strategic plan, UIC has achieved several key milestones. The first associate dean for Equity and Inclusion was appointed in 2020. Activities associated with improving the “educational climate” for students, faculty, and staff have included discussions/lectures on micro-aggressions, restorative justice, and the development of a resource document for faculty on how to manage micro-aggressions in the classroom setting. Skill-building activities across stakeholder groups have included individual and collaborative group consultations on DEI issues and ally training.  

Apply Now for the 2022 Diversity, Inclusion, and Sustainability in Nursing Education Lectureship Award   

AACN member schools seeking to showcase their success in the areas of diversity, equity, inclusion, and sustainability are encouraged to apply for a 2022 award. Awards will be presented in up to four categories: Public Colleges/Universities, Private College/Universities, Small Liberal Arts Colleges, and Academic Health Centers. Each winner will receive a $1,000 award and invited to present at AACN’s Diversity Symposium in November 2022. The application deadline is 12:00 pm (ET), January 15, 2022. For complete details, including award criteria and the application process, click here.

For more information, contact AACN's Associate Director for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Christine Downing at (202) 463-6930, ext. 266 or