News updates from the JMU School of Nursing

James Madison University

School of Nursing

Nursing Newsletter for Alumni and Friends

Aug/Sept 2016

Letter From The Director

Dr. Julie SanfordFall 2016 begins a new era for the JMU School of Nursing as we begin the semester in the new Heath and Behavioral Studies building (HBS). The level of planning and thought that went into the design is evident as soon as you walk through the door. The abundance of natural light throughout the building showcases the beauty and function of this contemporary space. Award-winning integrated design firm, EYP Architecture & Engineering, who specialize in sustainable projects, took the lead on this project while incorporating valuable input from future occupants. The firm strives to create spaces that influence and enrich the lives of the people who use them. Along with the School of Nursing the new HBS building will be the primary home of Communication Sciences and Disorders, the CHBS Dean’s office, Health Sciences and Social Work.

Moving into our new home we can immediately see and feel how the educational experience of our programs will be enhanced now and for years to come. Offices, classrooms, labs, study spaces and even hallways were developed to be functional, foster a sense of community and facilitate communication.  Design qualities include formal and informal learning spaces that promote collaborative and interprofessional opportunities for students, faculty and the public. Considerable attention went into making lecture classrooms feel like intimate spaces and are fully equipped to make use of the latest technology for more interactive modes of instruction, including project-based learning. Impressive, is just one word to describe the new lab facilities. The volume of space, state of the art technology and equipment will be invaluable for preparing students for real life situations. We will have a Skills Lab on the second floor, Simulation and Standardized Patient Labs on the third and Heath Assessment and Practical Application Labs on the fourth. For more information, please see what our Lab Director, Lauren Mullen, has to share in her write-up below.

If you would like a tour of our new building the next time you are in town and on campus contact Michele @ and she will gladly set something up!

Best Wishes for a happy and healthy Fall,

Julie Sanford, DNS, RN
Director and Professor of Nursing

Overview From Lab Director, Lauren Mullen

Lauren Mullen

The JMU School of Nursing welcomes you to preview our state of the art laboratory environments housed in the new HBS building.  Undergraduate and Graduate nursing students will have the opportunity to take part in a full range of skills acquisition and simulation experiences.  In their first semester of the undergraduate nursing program, students gain mastery of fundamental nursing care concepts and procedures in a 20-bed skills lab environment.  As students progress through the nursing program, they engage in high fidelity simulation experiences developed in accordance with published standards.  The dynamic process of simulation creates high impact client situations that lead to sound clinical reasoning abilities.  All simulation experiences will occur in either a 6-bed suite that portrays an acute care environment, a 4-bed standardized patient suite that resembles a primary care environment, or a 23-bed assessment lab similar to a standard examination room.  All the spaces are equipped with cutting edge technology such as a simulated electronic health record and high fidelity human patient simulators capable of mimicking humanistic processes from blood pressure to breathing.  Students will also interact with standardized patients.  Standardized patients are paid actors who play the role of a patient, family member, or friend during simulation experiences.  The laboratory spaces overall offer a level of realism, in conjunction with the use of standardized patients, that engages the students to a greater degree throughout the learning process.  Through simulation, students are better prepared for entry into practice and possess core competencies expected of a new graduate and advanced practice nurses.


JMU School of Nursing begins the year without two incredible professors but not without the significant contributions they have left behind. Drs. Merle Mast and Patty Hale have both been integral parts of our School as it has evolved and grown during their 25 and 10 years here respectively. Students and the Nursing Program have benefited greatly from the influence of their extensive education, professional experience, grants/research opportunities and countless publications. Although they will be greatly missed we wish them happiness, success and good health in this new chapter of their lives.

Dr. Merle Mast

Dr. Merle MastIf you are a JMU Nursing alum there is a good chance you will recognize the name Merle Mast, PhD, RN. For 26 years she has been a vital part of the JMU Nursing program. She began her career teaching part-time as an Assistant Professor in 1990 when Nursing was very small and housed in the Wine Price Building. With departmental growth and changes she experienced moves to Harrison Hall Annex, ISAT, HHS, and Burruss. Dr. Mast also provided input for and witnessed the building of the new HBS (Health and Behavioral Studies) facility where the now  “JMU School of Nursing” calls home today.

Professor Mast joined the faculty full-time during the 1994-1995 year and became highly involved. Between 1996 and 1998 she led a two-year application for JMU (in collaboration with EMU) to become a chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International nursing honor society. In 1999, Dr. Mast became the department head in nursing. “Initially, the department was small. We had 9 full-time faculty and graduated 35-40 BSN students annually. Today we graduate 180 each year.”

“My 12 years as Department Head (1999-2011) were a ride! I proposed and received administrative support to begin a graduate program (with NP and Nurse Educator tracks) just before the huge push to expand undergraduate programs began. We opened the graduate program in 2004, and I led the effort to secure a 1.2 million HRSA grant to support it. In 2005 we started our RN-BSN program to provide the BSN for Associate Degree prepared nurses. Simultaneously, we revised our BSN curriculum to accommodate many more students and began to phase its growth. We also designed the DNP program and received JMU and SCHEV approval for it.” During this time she mentored faculty to become program directors, and wrote and was PI for a number of grants to fund programs (totaling more than 2 million). “We grew from 9 to 27 faculty and more than doubled the number of BSN graduates as our Graduate and RN-BSN programs grew.Those years were all about strategic planning and CHANGE.”

In 2001 Dr. Mast designed a service learning and respite care program, Caregivers Community Network, based on interprofessional research she did with a faculty member in Social Work. “I secured grant funding for this program for many years.” The program provided significant service to frail older adults and their family caregivers in our community. Furthermore, in collaboration with other faculty, she conducted research and developed new service programs for clients over the years,. As a service learning program, CCN also offered educational hands-on learning about aging and care-giving through an elective course for 40 – 60 students from various majors each semester. This program won state and national awards for education and family caregiving services (MetLife Foundation/National Alliance for Caregiving Award for Caregiver Support in 2009, and 2006 Best Practices Award in Education from the Commonwealth Council on Aging). In 2013 she won the Provost’s Award for Excellence in Outreach and Engagement for this work.

Between 2011 and 2016, Dr. Mast returned to a full-time teaching position concentrating on developing the DNP program and creating a number of new courses across programs. She also focused on working with younger faculty and graduate students to engage in research and writing for publication.

“My career coincided with the huge demand for nurses in health care, as well as the dynamic growth of JMU. I have been very fortunate to have had so many challenging and exciting opportunities in my career to develop, grow, and administrate new educational programs, and to engage in creative teaching and scholarship.”

“Although I retire with mixed feelings, I have a huge sense of satisfaction and excitement about all we’ve done – and continue to accomplish – in Nursing at JMU. We have stayed on the cutting edge with our new programs and expansion, and we are now becoming nationally recognized for our excellence in nursing education.  Our alumni are nursing leaders in the community.  I will deeply miss the students and my faculty colleagues, but also look forward to exploring new challenges!”

Dr. Patty Hale

Dr. Patty HaleDr. Patty Hale joined JMU Nursing in 2006 bringing with her twenty years of teaching and professional nursing experience. Before coming to JMU she taught at both UVA and Lynchburg college.  Appointed as the Graduate Program Director in 2006 she has  been instrumental in the expansion of programs and growth of the MSN/DNP enrollment. With a cohort of just 4 graduating in the spring of 2006 the program now has close to 200 alums and continues to grow and develop.  In 2008, during her period in office, she developed a new FNP program and in 2010, the leadership concentrations of Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) and Nurse Administrator were added to address quality, safety and evidence based practice priorities in health care settings. A Nurse Midwifery concentration (in conjunction with Shenandoah University) was also added at this time. In 2015 Dr. Hale was honored with the CHBS Distinguished Service Award and the MSN Program received the Provost Award for Excellence in Assessment. These awards are a tribute to the high standards and goals she set both personally and professionally for the School of Nursing at JMU.

Throughout her career Dr. Hale was continually recognized for excellence, including the prestigious selection as a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing and Carnegie/Case US Professor of the Year.

Dr. Hale plans to travel more, and enjoy her favorite past times of hiking, cooking, and quilting. "I’m sure there is more, and what that is will be fun to explore!"

“I absolutely loved getting to know all of the graduate students through the years, and advising and teaching them. I am proud of the contributions that they, as JMU alumni, are making toward better health in each of their communities throughout Virginia."



Dr. Melody Eaton

Dr. Melody Eaton has been named Associate Director for Graduate Programs for JMU School of Nursing. She received her BSN from James Madison University; her MBA from The George Washington University; and her Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing degree from George Mason University. She holds a strong clinical, nursing administration, health policy, and educational leadership background. During her leadership tenure with James Madison University Dr. Eaton has assisted with major curricular and program changes, and maintains excellent program outcomes. She has provided oversight to programs with approximately 1085 undergraduate traditional nursing majors, and 120 RN-BSN students. Dr. Eaton has maintained involvement at the graduate program level redesigning and instructing nursing administration and health policy courses, as a health policy student advisor, and as a member of the ‘Curriculum’ and ‘Admission & Progression’ committees. She has served in the role of Undergraduate Program Director and is enjoying her current leadership role as Associate Director for Graduate Programs. Previously, Dr. Eaton served in the role of founding Nursing Program Director and Department Chair for Longwood University.

She, along with colleagues, published research on hospice and home health clinical simulation in the journal Clinical Simulation in Nursing. She has also studied the effectiveness of home health care, and is published on this related topic in The Journal of Nursing Administration, and Policy, Politics, & Nursing Practice. Dr. Eaton currently serves as the Virginia Nurses Association Commissioner on Education. She served in the role of Chair for the Legislative Coalition of Virginia Nurses for two terms, focusing on grassroots lobbying for nursing education funding; and her advocacy work is also published in Policy, Politics, & Nursing Practice. She a founding member of the James Madison University Health Policy Collaborative (HPC). She and her HPC colleagues are studying interprofessional team-based learning’s effect on political astuteness. She enjoys developing and implementing student opportunities for professional growth, and interprofessional education in the area of nursing leadership and health advocacy.

On her off time, Dr. Eaton studies both Karate and Tai Chi. She and her husband also enjoy living on a small farm in north-western Rockingham County.

Dr. Christine ArgenbrightDr. Christine Argenbright,Assistant Professor, begins her role of MSN Coordinator for the Clinical Nurse Leader and Nursing Administration programs. She is currently teaching in the undergraduate and graduate nursing programs at JMU School of Nursing. She completed her doctoral education in nursing at the University of Arizona College of Nursing. Her major and minor areas of doctoral work focused on vulnerable populations and chronic illness respectively. Dr. Argenbright's area of expertise is in Adult Health, both acute and critical care, with a major field of interest in complementary therapies and integrative practices. Her thirty years of experience include adult critical care nursing and leadership positions comprised of directorships as well as executive level roles in the health care setting.  

Dr. Argenbright’s research interests include complexity science and contemplative practices that embrace health promotion and well-being. Her doctoral work encompassed the use of a complementary intervention for women breast cancer survivors with lymphedema. She has spoken locally and nationally on these topics. Currently she is exploring the use of contemplative practices for stress reduction in nursing faculty at staff.

Dr. Joseph Tacy

Dr. Joseph W. Tacy, Assistant Professor, has been appointed as the Associate Director for Undergraduate Programs for JMU School of Nursing. 

Dr. Tacy received his PhD in Nursing, from The University of Texas at Tyler, an MSN in Nursing Education from James Madison University, his Bachelor’s Degree Regents Studies from West Virginia University, and Associates in Nursing from Davis and Elkins College. Dr. Tacy spent 9 years at Sentara RMH Medical Center within administration as a patient care supervisor providing clinical and administrative direction and support to nursing personnel. At James Madison University, Dr. Tacy has taught in the undergraduate and graduate programs. Dr. Tacy has multiple years of telemetry medical-surgical, orthopedic, and stroke experience that he uses to provide knowledge to his undergraduate students. Dr. Tacy has also taught contemporary issues, informatics, and clinical applications within the undergraduate program. Dr. Tacy has experience with administrative leadership, nurse administration, technology, and informatics. At JMU, Dr. Tacy was the program coordinator for the graduate program where he advised and facilitated needs for the clinical nurse leader and nurse administrator pathway of the MSN. 

Most recently, he has presented research on integrating interprofessional core competencies of communication and team based care through multidisciplinary education at the Southern Nursing Research Society Conference. Dr. Tacy maintains a positive and enthusiastic approach to nursing education; his students enjoy his willingness to go beyond the duty of a professor and leader in nursing. 

Welcome New Faculty And Staff

Kathryn MawnKathryn Mawn, MSN-BC, is excited to be joining the JMU Nursing Faculty. Kathryn is originally from Marietta, GA and she graduated from Villanova University with her BSN in 2006.  After school she moved to Boston where she worked at Massachusetts General Hospital and went on to earn her MSN in Forensic Nursing from Boston College in 2011. Her background and experience is in Forensic, Psychiatric and Medical-Surgical Nursing. Her other experiences include working as Risk Manager at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta, as well as working with the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office, the Federal Prison System, and working as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE). Kathryn has taught clinical and lab courses at Emory University and Kennesaw State University in Atlanta, as well as having served as Mental Health Course Coordinator at Chamberlain College of Nursing in Atlanta.

Dr. Betsy Herron​Betsy Herron, PhD, RN, CNE, received her BSN from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, MSN from Duke University, and PhD from Mercer University. Dr. Herron’s nursing career has been based in cardiology. “I have worked on cardiac step down units, CCU, cardiac catheterization outpatient care, and cardiac rehab. I have been in nursing education for 8 years having previously taught in Charlotte NC.” This fall she will be teaching Pharmacology and Pathophysiology, Clinical Applications II, and Clinical Applications III. “My research interests are in the development of clinical reasoning in nursing students, simulation education, and men in nursing.”

Janice GandyJanice Gandy, MSN, RN, grew up in Harrisonburg obtaining her BSN from EMU and my MSN in Administration from George Mason University. Janice enjoyed 15+ years of moving around the country with my husband, a career Air Force Physician, and our three sons.  Since returning to Harrisonburg five years ago, she has been working at the Harrisonburg Rockingham Free Clinic as the Clinical Services Director.   Prior to joining JMU full-time this fall, she was adjunct faculty teaching Community Health clinicals.  “My interests are community and population health, working with the underserved population, and integrated care. I am also a student!  I'm halfway through the DNP program here at JMU, scheduled to graduate in 12/17.”  This fall, she will be teaching three Community Health clinicals, the Art and Science of Nursing, and an elective, Understanding Sexuality in Health Illness.

Catherine BrownCatherine Brown, MSN, RN, considers herself a "Virginia gal" and has lived in the Shenandoah Valley since 1984. She started her health career as a technician in Veterinary medicine and began a second career in nursing about 25 years ago achieving a previous goal of MSN, in 2007, through Jefferson college of Health Sciences.  Catherine feels very fortunate that she has been able to experience many areas of nursing which includes ER, School Health, Med/Surg nursing, teaching in the community college setting, and most recently, public health nursing with an emphasis in Maternity to under-served and vulnerable populations.  "While my interests in nursing are many, I am most interested in addressing interprofessional collaboration for positive patient outcomes, reducing barriers and providing access to care.  This is my second semester her at JMU, and I am excited to be involved in Foundations and Clinical Applications I and to pursue my professional educational goals with the support and guidance of the university!"

Annette Rexrode and Joyce DiasWelcome Administrative Assistants Annette Rexrode and Joyce Dias who will provide support for faculty and students in a very busy School of Nursing!

 Carol Ward

Congratulations to Instructors Lisa Carmines and Carol Ward for passing the CNE exam to become certified in nursing education!


Ann Marie

A big "Thank You" to Anne Marie Craig, FNP-BC, a JMU alum who graduated with honors in 2014 with her MSN, for addressing the incoming nursing students at the White Coat Ceremony on August 29th. She is an ANCC certified Family Nurse Practitioner employed at a large family practice office in Ashburn, VA. and has 17 years of experience in Maternal Health and Labor and Delivery.  Ann Marie shared 5 traits she feels are needed for being an effective nurse- knowledge, self-awareness, selflessness, empathy and most important compassion. 

 DNP Student Deborah Burner Kile Awarded Sara Tatem Scholarship 

Debbie Burner Kile

The Virginia Organization of Nurse Executives and Leaders offers the Sara Tatem Scholarship to help defray the costs of education. This scholarship honors Tatem who was the driving force in creating the Virginia Society of Nursing Service Administrators, which later became the Virginia Organization of Nurse Executives and Leaders (VONEL).

Debbie graduated from JMU in 1987 with her BSN, and has spent her entire 29 year career at Sentara RMH Medical Center in Harrisonburg. The majority of her work has been in the Perioperative Services department. For 20 years, she worked as a staff nurse in the Ambulatory Surgery Center. In 2010, Debbie began her nursing leadership journey by serving as the manager of the Moderate Sedation department. In 2012, she became the manager of the Operating Room and Cardiothoracic Operating Room. “Since 2015, I have served as the Moderate Sedation and Cardiothoracic OR manager. I truly love nursing leadership and decided to pursue my MSN in 2012 to grow my leadership skills. I graduated in 2015 from JMU with my MSN (core nursing administration).  I proceeded on to the DNP program and JMU and plan to graduate in December 2017. I am looking forward to being a "triple duke"!”  Debbie also earned the Board Certified Nurse Executive certification from the ANCC in 2015.

When asked about career plans, Debbie says; “As a nurse leader, I have a passion for creating a healthy work environment. My DNP project focuses on teaching nurses how to recognize nurse-to- nurse incivility and using cognitive behavioral techniques to decrease the incidence of incivility among nurses. Returning to JMU to earn my MSN and DNP degrees has been a wonderful experience. This academic challenge has sparked my passion for learning. I have experienced tremendous growth both personally and professionally.  While I do not have specific career plans upon completing my DNP degree, I am looking forward to the opportunities this degree will allow me to pursue.” 

We congratulate Debbie and look forward to seeing where her DNP journey will take her. Debbie shared; “I am so proud to be a JMU Nursing graduate student. The faculty and staff have been wonderfully supportive throughout my education. I am thankful for the opportunity to receive a quality education that will allow me to be make a positive difference for patients and the nursing profession.”

Michael Jay Urgel, BSN, RN, received his CCRN- Certification for Adult, Pediatric and Neonatal Critical Care Nurses

Sarah Nash, BSN, RN, passed her ONC exam to become certified in Orthopaedic Nursing

Molly Karabinus, was awarded the 2016 CSEMS (Central Shenandoah Emergency Medical Services) RN Clinical Preceptor Award


Save The Date!

Saturday, October 29

Homecoming Headquarters

1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. | Godwin Field

The annual Alumni tailgate is back on Godwin Field with all you can eat food, three beer tickets, live entertainment from Justified and giveaways.
$20/person; $10/12 years and under. Pre-registration required.

JMU Dukes v. Rhode Island football game

3:30 p.m. | Bridgeforth Stadium

Be sure to reserve your football game tickets to cheer on the Dukes. A block of football tickets has been reserved for Nursing Alumni.  To purchase game tickets, please call the Athletics Ticket office at 540.568.3853 and mention the code JMUNURSING or click here.

Register today!

To update and share your information email Michele: