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Olson returns to College of Nursing as interim dean

Roberta Olson
Roberta Olson

Dean and Professor Emerita Roberta Olson, who served as the dean of South Dakota State University’s College of Nursing from 1994 to 2013, has agreed to serve as interim dean of the college starting May 1.

Olson replaces Nancy Fahrenwald, who replaced Olson as dean, and will become the dean of the College of Nursing at Texas A&M in June.

“We are very fortunate and thankful to have Roberta step into the interim dean role during this time of transition,” said Dennis Hedge, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Dr. Olson is very respected on campus and throughout the state. Her continued relationships with health-care industry leaders will allow the transition to be seamless and maintain the momentum we have had in our college of nursing for decades. That momentum has allowed our university to be a leader in educating generations of health-care professionals while conducting the type of research and outreach that impacts lives.”

Olson will serve in the interim role until a national search can be conducted and permanent replacement named, according to Hedge.

“I am honored to be invited to return to serve in this very important position,“ said Olson, a Groton native and State graduate. “I look forward to returning to a role where we experienced many successes and allowed a culture of innovation to provide opportunities for students, faculty and researchers to change and advance health care in the state and region. Many of those same people are at State and it will be rewarding to work alongside of them again and continue to meet those challenges.”

Olson added a master’s degree from Washington University and a doctorate from Saint Louis University.

She returned to State in January 1994 after serving as an associate professor and associate dean at both the University of Kansas and University of Texas-Houston schools of nursing. After retiring from State, Olson served with the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education as a team leader for accreditation site visits and the Midwest Nursing Research Society Foundation.

Olson was inducted into the South Dakota Nurses Association Hall of Fame in 2017 and received the Bernadette Arminger Award, highest honor for service from American Association of Colleges of Nursing, in 2014. She was also named a South Dakota State Distinguished Alumna in 2013.

Olson’s time as dean included several accomplishments, such as:

  • Establishment of a research-based Ph.D. program;
  • Creation of the fully online RN Upward Mobility program;
  • Establishment of a practice-based Doctor of Nursing Practice program;
  • Development of the accelerated nursing program at the BSN level;
  • Expansion of undergraduate admissions from 136 to 344; and
  • Expansion of campuses from two to four (Brookings, Rapid City, Sioux Falls and Aberdeen).