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May to step aside as School of Nursing dean after 15 years

September 11, 2015

Photo: Katharyn May

Katharyn May, currently the longest-serving dean on campus, will remain with the School of Nursing as a member of the faculty. Under her leadership, the school has consistently ranked among the nation’s top nursing programs.

Photo: UW–Madison School of Nursing

Katharyn May, dean of the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Nursing, announced today that she will step aside from her post in late 2016 after 15 years of service.

May, currently the longest-serving dean on campus, will remain with the school as a member of the faculty. A search for a new dean will begin shortly.

“My plan is to remain active in the life of the university and to put my experience to use in tackling new challenges,” May says. “I have been incredibly fortunate to work with so many colleagues who share a single purpose — to help people improve their health and build better futures for themselves and for their families and communities. I look forward to continuing that work in a different role.”

Under May’s leadership, the School of Nursing consistently ranked among the nation’s top nursing programs for research and academics.

Photo: Signe Skott Cooper Hall

May spearheaded a 10-year, $25 million campaign to build Signe Skott Cooper Hall.


“We are indebted to Katharyn for her many years of dedicated leadership,” says UW–Madison Provost Sarah Mangelsdorf. “She has helped build and sustain a terrific nursing program. We look forward to her continued presence as a member of the faculty in the School of Nursing.”

May spearheaded a 10-year, $25 million campaign to build Signe Skott Cooper Hall. The year-old facility includes state-of-the-art classroom and research space, and will allow expansion of the school’s faculty and enrollment in response to growing demand for nursing over the next 20 years.

During May’s tenure, the school has designed and launched a number of initiatives to address both workforce and faculty shortages, including:

  • A unique partnership with Gundersen Health System to expand the BS Nursing program to La Crosse, while also increasing enrollment on the Madison campus.
  • Two federally-funded projects: one designed to encourage nurses to earn graduate degrees to prepare for teaching careers; the other focused on increasing nursing faculty expertise in teaching technologies.
  • The establishment of a new Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program to prepare advanced practice nurses for clinical leadership and educational roles.
  • A new approach to graduate education designed to accelerate student progression to the Ph.D. level in order to prepare more nurses for faculty roles earlier in their careers.

Prior to assuming leadership of the school in 2001, May served as dean of the School of Nursing at the University of British Columbia for six years. She began her academic career in 1978 at the University of California, San Francisco, where she served as program director and acting department chair. She later held positions as department chair, associate dean for research, and director of graduate programs in the School of Nursing at Vanderbilt University.

“The hallmark of Dean May’s leadership is most certainly her unwavering commitment to her powerful vision that resulted in the realization of Signe Skott Cooper Hall,” says UW nursing alumna Laurie Benson, co-founder of Inacom Information Systems and chair of the School of Nursing Board of Visitors. “Perhaps her greatest legacy will be evidenced in the success of the nursing students she was privileged to serve. By her example, Dean May has served as a powerful role model of what is possible for a new generation of innovative nurse leaders.”

—Jennifer Garrett