Come August, Anne Bavier will be responsible for leading one of the nation’s largest nursing colleges, one that teaches most of its courses online, and overseeing the merger of the college with the university’s department of kinesiology.
Luckily, Ms. Bavier thinks her new job, or at least parts of it, will be "remarkably easy."
"The conversations between faculty and staff have already begun," says Ms. Bavier, who has been named as the next dean of the College of Nursing at the University of Texas at Arlington. The faculty in nursing and kinesiology "have already bonded, so my job is now about getting the administrative ducks in a row, crossing the t’s, and dotting the i’s."
Incorporating kinesiology with primary health, she says, gives nursing students more opportunities to work with older patients, for whom movement and mobility are important issues.
Those are the types of connections that Ms. Bavier, who is 66, would like to create. She didn’t expect to return to administration after stepping down as dean of the University of Connecticut School of Nursing in 2011 to teach, but she was attracted by Arlington’s focus on international training. Arlington has created a certificate program in public health in Latin America, and plans to work in partnership with universities in Jordan and China. Ms. Bavier, who has spent time in South Africa and Ireland, hopes to use her background in high-level research—including posts with the National Institutes of Health—to support those efforts. "We need new bonding in the international arena because health is a global issue," she says. "We need faculty to be exposed by going to other countries and spending time there, and taking students with them."
While every faculty member "absolutely has to teach," Ms. Bavier says, good science and good teaching go hand in hand.
Back home, she will focus on helping faculty members with work-life balance because "every person has another part of their life that’s not in the academic realm." She will visit each faculty member individually to design a teaching load that plays to that person’s strengths. It is important to be flexible with scheduling, she says, noting that certain situations will require extra time off or other adjustments.
Undergraduate education needs to remain a priority, she says, especially now that more hospitals are recognizing that having a higher share of nurses with baccalaureate degrees, rather than just training certificates, has been associated with a reduction in the number of patient deaths. That finding has created a higher demand for nurses with those degrees. Arlington, which has nearly 12,000 undergraduate and graduate students, says it has an undergraduate graduation rate of 94 percent. Ms. Bavier attributes that success to the school’s model of mostly small-group online classes (though there are about 2,400 on-campus students) combined with supervision at a local clinic, often in a rural part of Texas.
Looking forward, Ms. Bavier says she will evaluate the curriculum and adapt it from what she calls "the paradigm of the past," which is traditional hospital care. That area has been stressed because it is where most nurses have found jobs. But now, she says, "we need to also look at ways that we can be sure that our curriculum helps address the new placements that increasingly nurses will find, which will be outpatient clinics and home-care settings. We look at those trends to keep our responses to changes in health care cutting-edge."