Both the southeastern Massachusetts region and the profession of nursing were developing in the 1960s. The need for a baccalaureate program in nursing came to the attention of local legislators and, in 1966, a bill was introduced in the state legislature to establish such a program at UMass Dartmouth's predecessor school, Southeastern Massachusetts Technological Institute. The Advisory Committee to the Board of Higher Education endorsed the program in 1967. The College of Nursing was established in 1969 with Sister Madeleine Clemence Vaillot as the first dean of the College. Two departments were established: the Department of Adult and Child Nursing and the Department of Community Nursing.
The College of Nursing undergraduate program received initial accreditation from the National League for Nursing in 1973 and has been continuously accredited since. In May of 1977, Dr. Joyce Passos was appointed as the second dean and the college grew. She expanded the basic program to allow for a flexible path for Registered Nurse students, broadened the mission beyond teaching to include scholarship and service, and expanded the community-based focus of care. A graduate program in nursing was established, currently offering three options: Adult Health Clinical Specialist or Nurse Educator (AHN); Adult Nurse Practitioner (ANP); and Community Health Clinical Specialist & Nurse Educator (CHN). The graduate program was approved in 1987 and received initial accreditation from the National League for Nursing in 1993.
In 1986, the Theta Kappa Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau was established at the College of Nursing. This chapter has won key awards for its outstanding work related to chapter goals.
In 1993, Dr. Elisabeth Pennington was appointed as the third Dean of the College of Nursing. Under her direction, the faculty were encouraged to embrace change, knowing that quick response to a changing world was necessary. The College's mission and goal statement was revised and the philosophy refined. In spring, 2005, Dr. James Fain was appointed Dean of the College. He brings to the position experience as a nurse, nursing educator, nurse researcher, and administrator. In 2008, the College admitted its first cohort of PhD students to an innovative program of study that addresses the nursing faculty shortage and advances nursing knowledge in the care of people with chronic illness.
The College serves as the administrator of the University Lead Poisoning Education Project. This project, which is federally and state funded, educates, inspects, and supports lead abatement processes. The College of Nursing also oversees the Gerontology minor and certificate programs.
As noted above, the southeastern region of Massachusetts is rich with cultural and ethnic diversity. Portuguese is the predominant culture and includes people from the Azorean and Cape Verde Islands. There are approximately 7,000 students in attendance. Our students come from Southeastern Massachusetts, other New England states, and the Mid-Atlantic states, as well as from several foreign countries.
Many undergraduate students are the first in their families to attend college. Approximately one-half of the students live on campus, and the other commute from off-campus housing or home. During our 40 year history, registered nurses from Southeastern Massachusetts, seeking to advance in their professional careers, have attended our RN-to-BS, MS, and (as of 2009) our PhD in Nursing programs.
The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth is located in the southeastern region of Massachusetts (the Southcoast). This area of the state is rich in cultural diversity dominated by the growth of individuals and families from Portugal and the Azores (added to previous communities of French, Irish, and Polish). More recently, the area has seen growth in both Cambodian and Vietnamese populations. Employment in this region has historically been centered on whaling, textile, and fishing industries. As society has moved toward a service and information orientation, these industries are in flux and the need for higher education has become ever more important.
The region is dominated by two small cities, Fall River and New Bedford. Each community supported a textile school in the late 19th century. Over the years, both the New Bedford Textile School and Bradford Durfee Textile School, in response to a growing need for higher education, evolved and expanded their offerings and became multi-purpose institutions. In 1964, these two institutions were merged and formed the Southeastern Massachusetts Technological Institute (SMTI); ground breaking for a common campus in the town of Dartmouth, mid-point between the two cities, took place. Eventually, the state legislature recognized the need for a comprehensive university in this region and voted that SMTI become Southeastern Massachusetts University (SMU). SMU was established with five colleges: Arts and Science, Business and Industry, Engineering, Nursing, and Visual and Performing Arts. Further development of SMU occurred when the Swain School of Design in New Bedford merged with the College of Visual and Performing Arts in 1988.
The University of Massachusetts was founded in Amherst, in 1863, as a public land-grant institution. Later it expanded to include the Worcester Medical School and Boston State College, becoming a three school system. In 1991, the system expanded further and included the University of Lowell and Southeastern Massachusetts University. Thus a five campus system was established and SMU became the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. The UMass system is administered by President Jack M. Wilson and a single Board of Trustees. Each of the five autonomous campuses is administered by a chancellor.