James Madison University

Honoring Dr. Merle Mast

Posted: July 18, 2011
By: Jordan Pye

After 12 years of service as head of the Department of Nursing, Dr. Merle Mast is ready for a new challenge. On May 3 the nursing faculty held a dinner party to celebrate and reflect on her contributions to the department.

“It’s been a really busy decade,” Mast said. “We’ve grown and changed and done so much.”

Under her leadership the nursing department expanded in size and scope, beginning with the move to the Health and Human Services building on east campus just after Mast became department head in 1999. A few years later the shortage of nurses in the workforce attracted national attention and to meet this need, Mast oversaw the development of the graduate program in 2004 and the beginning of the RN to BSN program in 2005. Over the next two years Mast mentored new directors into their positions, worked with faculty to establish new policies and helped plan a pending doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) program.

During Mast’s term the number of declared nursing majors nearly tripled and now graduates 120 students from the BSN program. At the same time, the number of faculty increased from 10 to 26 over the years to accommodate the growth. A climate of community partnership and service emerged through the Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services, and since 2001 Mast has also served as executive director of the Caregivers Community Network outreach program.

“All these changes have required the ability to transition thinking,” Mast said, adding that supportive faculty and administration made everything possible. “We really did it together.”

Although her role is changing, Mast’s work at JMU is not finished. While taking an academic leave in the fall, she hopes to write professionally and publish research before returning to teach graduate level students next spring. Mast said she came to this decision gradually, and hopes to be remembered for flexibility and developing ideas into reality.

“I’ve been very, very fortunate because JMU as an institution has grown in exciting ways and our growth has paralleled that,” Mast said. “The years I’ve been department head have been a good time for nursing, and it’s exciting to be a part of that.”