Debra Leners named chair of USD's nursing program

VERMILLION, S.D. -- A national leader in nursing education has been named the chair of The University of South Dakota’s Department of Nursing.

Debra Leners, R.N., Ph.D., PNP, CNE was most recently the director of the School of Nursing at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colo. She spent 20 years as a professor and chief nursing officer of the school. During her tenure at UNC, Leners oversaw a master’s degree, doctoral of nursing practice degree, a Ph.D. and a National Institute for Nursing Education.

Leners received UNC’s award for excellence in graduate teaching and leadership and was chosen as a member of the national Nursing Education Certification Board within the National League for Nursing.  She also is a national peer reviewer for the Higher Learning Commission, with expertise in distance programming.

“We are fortunate to replace one national leader with another,” Brian Kaatz, Pharm.D, dean of the School of Health Sciences, said. “Dr. Leners has the experience and the vision to propel our nursing program forward.”

Leners is taking over the chair position from June Larson, MSN, RN, CNE, ANEF, who has become the associate dean of the School of Health Sciences. Under Larson’s leadership, the nursing program was designated by the National League for Nursing as an outstanding nursing school in student learning and professional development in 2004. The designation was renewed for another three years in 2007. A tenured, full professor at USD, Leners is committed to continuing the department’s excellence in nursing education.

“I helped build a number of degree programs at Northern Colorado, and I was ready for a new challenge,” said Leners, who is originally from the Iowa Great Lakes region. “I am particularly interested in helping create the baccalaureate degree in nursing at USD.”

An intent to plan for a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing has been filed with the Board of Regents. The U now offers an associate degree in nursing on the main campus in Vermillion and at four outreach campuses in Pierre, Rapid City, Sioux Falls and Watertown. The degree also is offered as part of a distance campus in cooperation with the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society.

A photo of Leners is available for download at www.usd.edu/urelations/images/Debra_Leners.jpg.