Diversity, Inclusion, and Sustainability in Nursing Education Award

This award recognizes outstanding contributions made by schools of nursing that champion diversity, inclusion, and sustainability in nursing education. Annual awards may be given to one school in each of the following categories: Public Colleges/Universities, Private College/Universities, Small Liberal Arts Colleges, and Academic Health Centers.

Public colleges and universities are higher education institutions that are mainly funded by state governments, whereas private colleges and universities rely on student tuition fees, alumni, and endowments to fund their academic programs.

Academic Health Centers as defined by the Association of Academic Health Centers, is "an institution that consists of an allopathic or osteopathic medical school, at least one other health professions school or program, and at least one affiliated or owned teaching hospital."

Diversity is defined as individual attributes that extend beyond race, age, and gender to also include, but are not limited to, characteristics such as national origin, immigrant status, language, color, disability, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, veteran status, and family structures. Inclusion is defined as a culture that encourages collaboration, flexibility, and fairness as well as leverages diversity so that all individuals are able to participate and contribute to their full potential. An inclusive environment must be created in order for diversity to flourish. Sustainability occurs when structures and strategies to manage diversity and institutionalize a culture of inclusion are in place.

AACN presents this award to honor and recognize nursing schools for their extraordinary commitment to diversity excellence and inclusion in their learning environments.

Award Nominations Closed

  • Established an organizational culture with an extraordinary and unfailing commitment to diversity, inclusion, cultural humility, and community outreach.
  • Demonstrated an organizational commitment to the recruitment, development, and retention of individuals from all populations.
  • Developed and implemented effective initiatives as demonstrated by a diversified student population and faculty.
  • Cultivated and promoted diversity initiatives that establish and foster a more inclusive and equitable learning environment.
  • Demonstrated commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion through the development or involvement in tangible strategies, (i.e., projects, initiatives).
  • Outstanding advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion at the interpersonal, unit, and institutional levels.

Success in leading and enhancing diversity and inclusion efforts can be demonstrated in many ways. Nominations should be based on leadership in one or more of the following areas:

  • Addresses key areas of diversity and inclusion such as recruitment, retention, campus/department culture and climate, research, clinical practice or community outreach.
  • Activities to recruit, retain, and professionally develop individuals who increase the diversity of faculty or staff.
  • Activities to attract or recruit students who increase the diversity of schools or to help ensure the success of those students.
  • Activities to create leadership teams and organizations that promote a diverse and inclusive culture.
  • Sponsors or actively promotes programs, initiatives, or projects in diversity and inclusion.
  • Collaboration with campus or community groups in the creation, sponsorship, and implementation of programs, initiatives, or projects in diversity and inclusion.

The winners will demonstrate excellence in nursing education in both of the following areas:

  1. Creating Change – Influencing change and adapting academic environments, and/or raising awareness of the need to promote diversity, inclusion, and sustainability in nursing education. Nominations must:

    • Clearly articulate the focus of the nomination
    • State the impact of actions taken by the school
    • Identify scope of change, i.e., partners, community engagement
    • Address sustainability
  2. Influencing Others – Serves as an opinion leader and recognized advocate for diversity, inclusion, and sustainability resulting in significant organizational or community impact.

    Below are examples of how the awardee might influence others and create change.

    • Continually Learning – Develops educational programs, professional development opportunities, and/or awareness events that support this award’s triple aim.
    • Cultivating Diverse Teams – Creates inclusive teams of faculty, staff, students, mentors, and other constituents representing the rich diversity of communities served.
    • Risk Taking – Advances innovative solutions and decisive actions that break new ground in the drive to champion diversity, inclusion, and sustainability.
    • Accountable for Diversity and Inclusion – Sets standards, advances strategies, and/or implements measures to ensure that goals related to diversity and inclusion are met.
    • External Leadership Involvement – Plays a leading role in advancing diversity, inclusion, and sustainability in the nursing profession in addition to local efforts.

Applicant nursing schools must be an AACN member institution. The application letter should not exceed five pages in length and be single-spaced, 12-point font, with one-inch margins. All applications should be electronically submitted via the online application.

  1. Letters of application must include the following:

    • How the nursing school has been instrumental in achieving diversity, inclusion, and sustainability in nursing education.
    • Description of the school’s diversity-related programs, initiatives, and/or projects that fulfill the award criteria using concrete examples.
    • The impact of the nursing school’s efforts. Please include numbers of affected individuals; programs or policies implemented; and any other relevant measurements of successful diversity efforts. The evidence can be both quantitative and qualitative.
  2. Reference letters: Two external letters of reference, outside the nursing academic unit, must accompany the application. Both letters must address the nursing school’s contributions towards advancing diversity and inclusion, including their diversity efforts, their impact and sustainability.

Nominations are closed.

Each winning school will receive a $1,000 award and plaque. The award and presentation opportunity will be presented annually at the AACN Diversity Symposium.

2022 Winners

This AACN award recognizes outstanding contributions made by schools of nursing that champion diversity, inclusion, and sustainability in nursing education. Annual awards may be made to one school in each of the following categories: Public Colleges/Universities, Private College/Universities, Small/Liberal Arts Colleges, and Academic Health Centers. The winners will address the membership at AACN’s virtual Diversity Symposium planned for November 9-10, 2022

Small/Liberal Arts Colleges Award: Dominican University

Dominican UniversityDominican University is a small private Catholic university located in River Forest, Illinois. The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ODEI) strives to create a just and humane campus and is dedicated to assisting the community in discovering how to live together, inclusively. The goal of the ODEI is to extend the benefits of diversity to all members of the Dominican community by working to equip students, faculty, and staff for responsible global citizenship. ODEI's goals and mission are supported by the values of caring and compassion, welcoming and hospitality, confidentially and acceptance, fairness, continuous improvement, and periodic review.

As a Hispanic-Serving Institution, Dominican University sponsored a cohort of faculty to participate in the ESCALA program specifically to close the gap in educational access and completion rates for Latinos, mainly through faculty development programming. Dominican University designed courses to provide culturally competent care that reflect the mission of the university. In the RN–BSN program, a Multi-cultural and Global Perspectives in Healthcare course was created for students to critically think about and discuss health and health care within a global environment and the impact of healthcare policies. In April 2021, Dominican University and the Borra College of Health Sciences, in collaboration with the Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation committee, presented a Health Disparity Symposium to the learning community to address the need to advance health equity and DEI efforts.

Private Colleges and Universities Award: Claflin University

Claflin University | Founded 1869Claflin University, a Historically Black College/University (HBCU) located in Orangeburg, SC, was founded in 1869 primarily to educate freed slaves. As the first university in South Carolina open to all regardless of race, class, or gender, Claflin remains dedicated and committed to educating individuals from underrepresented minority groups. Claflin University is the only HBCU with a nursing program in the state of South Carolina.

Through strategic partnerships with the South Carolina Technical College System and local hospitals, many associate degree graduates are afforded seamless transition to the RN–BSN program. These graduates help to improve health outcomes in the local area and state by preparing more BSN-prepared nurses for the workforce. Claflin University also has partnered with a local practice partner to increase diversity in BSN-prepared nurses in the hospital system. Through this collaborative partnership, the Regional Medical Center (RMC) committed to sponsor nurses working in their hospital system with full BSN program tuition. About 15% of graduates have been sponsored through this program. Because of the demonstrated value of the nursing program to the state of South Carolina, the university secured special funding for nursing student scholarships from the South Carolina Legislature in the amount of $600,000 since the BSN program began in August 2016. Through the academic/practice agreement, students in the MSN FNP program have clinical placement and a potential employment opportunity with a federally funded clinic with seven primary care locations. Participating students may receive loan repayment for their service.

Academic Health Centers Award: Ohio State University

The Ohio State UniversityThe Ohio State University (OSU) continues to demonstrate a commitment to the recruitment, development, and retention of faculty, staff, and students with a focus on underrepresented groups. The College of Nursing serves as an advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion across the academic institution and within the community. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are part of OSU’s culture, and last academic year (2021-2022), the institution added equity, inclusion, and social justice to its core values. OSU leaders embrace the role of change agent and are intentional about creating a more inclusive environment for all to thrive.

The College of Nursing initiated the university’s inaugural Health Equity Scholars Program, which is designed to prepare underrepresented undergraduate students at OSU with advanced education, knowledge, and skills to improve health equity outcomes in diverse and underserved communities. Diversifying the faculty, staff, and student population and building a more inclusive college culture are major priorities of the nursing school. The college recently launched a Student Success Series program for both undergraduate and graduate students to help improve soft and power skills that are needed in nursing, but not often a core component of the curricula. The college also has supported the development of two new student groups, focusing on students of color and LGBTQ+ students. Over 100 faculty and staff have participated in implicit bias training for admission committees to support a more diverse nursing class.

The College of Nursing has recently begun including demographic statistics on their website of their faculty, staff, and students to highlight the significant progress made in increasing the number of underrepresented individuals within the college. The annual Summer Institute for Future Nurses continues to spark interest from high school students across the country.

2021 Winners

Public Colleges and Universities:

Dr. Pamela Cook

Dr. Pamela Cook, Interim Associate Dean, Academic and Student Affairs at Augusta University in Augusta, GA

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:

Dr. Geraldine Young

Dr. Geraldine Q. Young, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Frontier Nursing University in Versailles, KY

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:

Dr. Phoenix Matthews

Dr. Phoenix Matthews, Associate Dean for Equity and Inclusion in the College of Nursing at University of Illinois Chicago in Chicago, IL

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 (URM) 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. 

2020 Winner

Dr. Mary Koithan - 2019 Diversity Award Winner

Dr. Mary Koithan, Associate Dean for student support and community engagement and Anne Furrow Professor of Integrative Nursing at the University of Arizona

The Lectureship Award for Diversity, Inclusion, and Sustainability in Nursing Education was presented to Dr. Mary Koithan, associate dean for student support and community engagement and Anne Furrow Professor of Integrative Nursing at the University of Arizona. This award highlights outstanding contributions made by an individual or a group to champion diversity, inclusion, and sustainability in a deliberate way. Diversity, inclusion, and creativity have been the hallmarks of Mary’s scholarship over time. Rooted in her strong diverse interdisciplinary approach to research, she has served as lead investigator, co-investigator, or consultant for over 12 externally funded national and international studies about integrative therapeutics or systems of care for diverse populations.

Dr. Koithan will received the award at the inaugural  Diversity Symposium in December 2020.

2019 Winner

Dr. Marion Broome, Dean and Ruby Wilson Professor of Nursing at Duke University School of Nursing, and Vice Chancellor for Nursing Affairs and Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs for Nursing at Duke University Health System (pictured center) with AACN’s Board Chair, Dr. Ann Cary (pictured left) and AACN’s President and CEO, Dr. Deborah Trautman (pictured right).

The Nurse.com by OnCourse Learning Lectureship Award for Diversity, Inclusion, and Sustainability in Nursing Education was presented to Dr. Marion Broome, Dean and Ruby Wilson Professor of Nursing at Duke University School of Nursing, and Vice Chancellor for Nursing Affairs and Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs for Nursing at Duke University Health System. This award highlights outstanding contributions made by an individual or a group to champion diversity, inclusion, and sustainability in a deliberate way.

Since 2014 when she arrived at Duke, Dr. Broome has fostered and expanded the School’s vision for diversity and inclusion. She has actively engaged the Duke community in advocacy efforts to promote diversity, inclusion, and sustainability, and she has worked to expand a key element of her institution’s strategic plan focused on people and the environment to ensure her school of nursing is an inclusive environment.

2018 Winner

Dr. Karen Bankston, Associate Dean, Clinical Practice, Partnership and Community Engagement, College of Nursing Procter Hall, University of Cincinnati (pictured right) and Dr. Greer Glazer, Dean, Schmidlapp Professor of Nursing, College of Nursing, University of Cincinnati (pictured center) with AACN’s Board Chair, Dr. Ann Cary (pictured left).

2017 Winner

2017 Award Winner Norma Rogers

Dr.  Norma Martinez Rogers, Professor, University of Texas Health Science Center with AACN’s President and CEO, Dr. Deborah Trautman,  Dr. Juliann Sebastian, Chair, and Dr. Ann Cary, Chair-Elect of the AACN Board of Directors. 

2016 Winner

Dr. Suzanne C. Smeltzer, Professor and Director, Villonova University, with AACN’s President and CEO, Dr. Deborah Trautman and Dr. Juliann Sebastian, Chair of the AACN Board of Directors.

2015 Winner

Dr. Marilyn “Marty” Douglas, Associate Clinical Professor, School of Nursing, University of California – San Francisco and Editor-in-Chief Emerita, Journal of Transcultural Nursing, with AACN’s President,  Dr. Eileen Breslin and CEO, Dr. Deborah Trautman.



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

Congratulations to the 2022 Award Recipients!

Small/Liberal Arts Colleges Award: Dominican University

Dominican University

Private Colleges and Universities: Clafin University

Claflin University

Academic Health Centers Award: The Ohio State University

The Ohio State University