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College of Nursing: Year in Review

This year was a momentous year in the College of Nursing, with a new building on the horizon, record-breaking fundraising totals and enrollment numbers, and the start of an anniversary celebration. Here is a wrap-up of our biggest moments:

Building Renovation and Expansion

For some time, the nation’s demand for registered and advanced practice nurses has been growing at a fast pace. In Tennessee, a workforce projection study estimates a 40 percent increase in the need for registered nurses. To meet this growing demand, the college enacted a five-year plan to increase its annual enrollment by about 55 percent, from 800 students in 2018 to 1,250 in 2023, grow its faculty and staff, and more than double the size of the current building from 42,000 to 100,000 square feet.

A major step in carrying out the plan came in October 2019, when the college received the largest gift in its history—$7.5 million—from alumna Sara Croley (’00) and her husband, Ross.

On April 29 of this year, the Tennessee General Assembly passed the FY21-22 budget. The University of Tennessee, College of Nursing building renovation and expansion was one of the capital projects funded under this budget.

On October 22 the UT Board of Trustees approved the naming of the new University of Tennessee, Knoxville, College of Nursing building, set to be constructed on Volunteer Boulevard. The new space will be named The Croley Nursing Building.

Construction is scheduled to begin next summer, and the building’s completion is targeted for 2025.

Vaccine Distribution:

Beginning in the fall of 2020 students from the College of Nursing stepped up to help fight the spread of COVID-19 by volunteering at testing sites, helping with campus saliva testing, and providing health screenings at campus events.

Community members noticed the great work nursing students were doing, and once the vaccine rollout began in January of 2021 the college was contacted to help with distribution.

Under the leadership of College of Nursing faculty members, student nurses began helping at vaccination clinics throughout the city. Covenant Health, the Knox County Health Department, Cherokee Health Systems, UT Medical Center, and Faith Leaders Church Initiative were among the list of partners.

The experience is beneficial to both the community and to nursing students. “The college’s mission is leading care, creating partnerships, and improving health,” said Victoria Niederhauser, dean of the College of Nursing. “Not only are we advancing the health of our community through vaccines, we are providing the students with an opportunity to practice nursing and public health skills in a community setting.”

To date, nursing students have given out approximately 15,900 vaccines.

By the Numbers:

The College of Nursing is a nationally recognized leader in the education of highly skilled visionary nurses.

The college saw its largest-ever enrollment, with 1,047 students in the fall of 2021. Enrollment has steadily increased over the years, with 803 students enrolled in 2016. This enrollment growth is in line with the college’s five-year plan to increase its annual enrollment.

“Students are attracted to the nursing profession because it offers multiple specialty areas, bountiful career options, and the opportunity to make an impact in the lives of others,” said Jada Russel, director of student services. “The interest in our freshman admissions program has steadily grown over the past few years. However, the interest has grown exponentially with the pandemic. I’m excited to take part in this important mission by supporting students to become the best and brightest future nurse leaders.”

To reduce financial barriers for these students, the college has also increased need-based scholarships over the years. This year the college was able to award $250,000 in scholarships to deserving nursing students.

“These highly qualified students work diligently to become the best graduate-ready nurses while in our programs,” says Niederhauser. “By providing scholarships to these students, it eases the financial burden so they can focus on their studies.”

Nationally Ranked

The college is nationally ranked and internationally recognized for its diverse and comprehensive educational programs, highlighted by innovative simulation, interprofessional collaboration, research, and community outreach.

The College of Nursing’s doctoral program in nursing practice ranked 38th among public universities this year.

“At the College of Nursing we work to produce Doctor of Nursing Practice students that will influence health care outcomes for individuals and patient populations by using evidence-based practice, evaluating, and implementing health policy, developing new and innovative clinical systems, and becoming leaders in nursing,” said Niederhauser. “This ranking is a direct reflection of our amazing nursing students. It is also a tribute to the commitment of our faculty and staff, who work tirelessly to support excellence in nursing education.”

For the first time, U.S. News published an undergraduate nursing degree ranking for programs that offer the Bachelor of Science in Nursing, or BSN.

In September it was announced that the college was ranked 42nd among all public universities and 58th nationally, according to the 2021 U.S. News and World Report undergraduate rankings.

“The COVID-19 pandemic illuminated a spotlight on nurses who have demonstrated their dedication to society by providing safe, effective, and evidence-based care to patients all over the world,” said Sadie Hutson, executive associate dean of the college. “I am so proud of our exceptional faculty and staff in their provision of a high-quality baccalaureate education that is addressing the demand of the nursing shortage in our country. Our exceptional graduates are making a significant impact on health in the lives of Tennesseans and beyond.”

$130,000 Raised at Annual NightinGala

The thirteenth annual NightinGala was held on Friday, November 12, at Cherokee Country Club. This fun-filled evening featured silent and live auctions, a plated dinner, awards ceremony, and an after-party with entertainment by the Coveralls.

The Dr. Sylvia E. Hart Distinguished Alumni Award was presented to Mary Lynn Brown, a faculty member of the college who exemplifies excellence through outstanding achievement, creativity, and service to the profession. The Volunteer Nursing Champion award was presented to Linda Vaughn for her support of the College of Nursing, the nursing profession, and the community.

The success of this event is credited largely to sponsors, who lend their names and financial support to the NightinGala. A special thank you to our presenting sponsors: Ayers Saint Gross, Barber McMurray, HOK, McCarty Hopsale McCarty and our corporate sponsors: the University of Tennessee Medical Center, East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, Partners Development, SLAM Collaborative, Johnson Architecture, and the Phillips family.

The event broke records and raised over $130,000, with all proceeds supporting the college’s efforts to provide nursing students with scholarships, state-of-the-art technology, and equipment.

Research and Scholarship

The college has reported an impressive research year for the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2021, with $ 2,914,648 in expenditures. This amount includes money from grants, contracts, and other external resources spent conducting research.

“Our fiscal year funding was at an all-time high at nearly 3 million dollars,” said Tami Wyatt, associate dean of research. “This truly indicates the excellent research and talented scientists in our college, and we are not slowing down. We have exciting new and growing projects already underway for fiscal year 2022.”

This year’s research funding includes several prominent projects:

  • Joel Anderson, associate professor at the college, received a three-year grant from the National Institute on Aging that focuses on increasing engagement and inclusion of LGBTQIA+ individuals in clinical aging-related research using a community based participatory approach that includes and data collection from in-person activities, online data collection, and the implementation of a national research registry.


“LGBTQIA+ individuals experience greater physical, socioeconomic, and clinical health disparities than their heterosexual and cisgender peers and are widely underrepresented in aging research,” said Anderson. “Of the few research projects conducted among LGBTQIA+ adults living with dementia or LGBTQIA+ caregivers of people with dementia, there has never been a nationally collaborative, concerted effort either to enroll these individuals in aging-related research or collect data related to their experiences with dementia and caregiving.”


  • The American Association of Colleges of Nursing selected the University of Tennessee, College of Nursing’s Transforming RN Roles in Community-based Integrated Primary Care (TRIP) grant to receive its 2021 AACN Exemplary Academic-Practice Partnership Award.

This award is given to academic-practice partnerships that demonstrate positive, measurable outcomes and an innovative, sustained relationship.

The TRIP program, a four-year $2.6 million grant from the U.S. Health Resources Services Administration was formed in 2018 between the College of Nursing and Cherokee Health Systems to train Bachelor of Science in Nursing students to work in primary care with rural and underserved populations and to advance leadership skills for registered nurses to work at the full scope of their license.

  • Consolidated Nuclear Security LLC, the management and operations contractor for the Y-12 National Security Complex, awarded the College of Nursing and Tickle College of Engineering a research subcontract of up to three years and $1.5 million. The initiative aims to develop an integrated approach for applying advanced engineering tools and techniques.

“We are bringing together a unique depth and breadth of capabilities from across campus to support this particular effort, drawing on our experience of working in high-consequence operations like health care or nuclear energy,” said Tom Berg, assistant professor of nursing. “This integration of advanced systems engineering capabilities into the College of Nursing provides us with new and unique resources such as computer simulation and modeling, data visualization, virtual and mixed reality, predictive analytics, and decision theory. These skills and resources help expand our leadership in nursing research by complementing existing research areas and moving into areas new to the college.”

50th Anniversary

The College of Nursing marked the beginning of a yearlong celebration of its 50th anniversary at the annual NightinGala in November 2021.

The college opened its doors in 1971 after the state legislature determined a need for a nursing college in East Tennessee. At the time, there was only one public nursing college in all of Tennessee—and it was on the other side of the state.

“We are so proud of the thousands of alumni that have provided excellent care to patients and families over the last half-decade,” said Niederhauser. “Their legacy is created by the amazing faculty and staff who tirelessly give their all for their students.”

The college will end its 50th Anniversary with a celebratory NightinGala on November 12, 2022. This gala will be an opportunity to honor 50 outstanding College of Nursing alumni. The awardees will be recognized for their excellence in nursing and health care, leadership in advancing the nursing profession, and innovation in professional nursing.


Kara Clark Cardwell (, 865-974-9498)


Disclaimer: Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number 1R24AG066599-01A1. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.