After more than four decades as a nurse in a wide variety of roles, including the last 13 years with South Dakota State University, Mary Minton has retired from the field.
Since 2014, the associate professor has been the associate academic dean for graduate nursing, and also served as interim associate dean for research since July 2019. While she will continue as a volunteer faculty member, Minton left full-time duties Feb. 21. As associate dean, she provided leadership to 180 to 200 graduate students, who were primarily online students, and the 20 members of the Graduate Faculty Committee.
During the last six years, Minton worked on the college’s Brookings campus. The previous time with SDSU was spent in Rapid City.
In Rapid City, the Minneapolis native taught undergraduate nursing courses like professional communications and introduction to public health as well as graduate courses like research methods and palliative and end-of-life nursing care.
“I loved being in the classroom, interacting with students and always considering how I could make a topic even more relevant and understandable,” Minton said.
“At the Rapid City site, I had the privilege of teaching first-semester students. Many of the male students were avid outdoor enthusiasts, such as cyclists and rock climbers. During one test review session, I chose to tap into the student’s rock-climbing expertise. I knew from experience with my rock-climbing son that strategy and planning are key—so I challenged the student to consider how he might apply strategy and planning to learning and studying.
“I could see the light go on in his mind and in his face—the connection was made.”
Dean Mary Anne Krogh said of Minton, “The breadth of experience and insight Dr. Minton brought to the College of Nursing will be missed greatly. She always put student needs at the forefront of every solution and I appreciated her perspectives.”
Ceremonies bring special memories
As an administrator, Minton often didn’t make those student connections until the end of their program.
“The College of Nursing holds a pinning and hooding ceremony at the end of each semester. The pinning is for the graduates of the bachelor’s programs; the hooding ceremony is for the master’s and doctoral graduates. As associate dean for graduate nursing, these ceremonies were the one time I could meet our graduate students, who are primarily online students.
“It was always a joy to congratulate them as they crossed the stage, meet their families and share in celebrating their academic success,” Minton said.
More balls to juggle
When she moved across the state to serve as an administrator, Minton made the following analogy in change of duties:
“I often said that if teaching was like juggling 10 balls in the air, being an administrator was like juggling 80 balls in the air. Having a supportive leadership and support staff team makes all the difference as well as collegial relationships with the graduate school and other departments. I quickly learned to embrace the flow of each day knowing what I planned may not align with the more urgent needs arising in the moment. “Organization and foresight were well-honed skills that served me well.”
Minton’s duties have been taken over by Mindy Tinkle, who has assumed the role of associate dean for academic programs, which covers both the undergraduate and graduate nursing programs. She had been associate dean for undergraduate nursing.
Minton said the biggest challenge Tinkle faces in her new role is “there are an abundance of graduate programs competing for students, so graduate student enrollment and program relevancy are always at the top of the list. Although components of our graduate programs are online, the face-to-face clinical components are critical for advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) preparation and we are facing serious competition for clinical sites.”
‘Death doula’ in retirement
One of Minton’s retirement goals is to become a “death doula,” which is on the opposite end of a birth doula. She already is a certified hospice and palliative nurse and has been a member of the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association since 2009.
Once the COVID-19 pandemic ends, Minton also plans to travel nationally and internationally as well as spend more time at the family getaway near Glacier National Park and make more visits to her children’s homes. Tim and Mary Minton have four sons and a new Corgi puppy named Sami.
“My nursing career has been far richer and more varied than I could have ever imagined when I graduated in 1979. I am especially glad to see the strong emphasis placed on the interprofessional team compared to 40 years ago as well as the intentional recognition of the spiritual needs of the patient,” Minton said.