Densford Center begins next era with new vision, leadership model and directors

Collaborations key to moving toward health equity and improved health

October 25, 2022

Densford group

From left, Shirley Brekken, Connie White Delaney, Vincent Peters, Holly Shaw, Siobhan McMahon and Teddie Potter, with a portrait of Katharine J. Densford in the background.

The Katharine J. Densford International Center for Nursing Leadership begins a new era in its storied history with the naming of new directors and the adoption of a new vision, mission and leadership model. 

With the retirement of the center’s former director Daniel Pesut, PhD, RN, FAAN, and a reflection and celebration of the inaugural director Mary Jo Kreitzer, PhD, RN, FAAN, and longstanding director Joanne Disch, PhD, RN, FAAN, the School of Nursing announced a new directorate model of leadership and new directors. The new directors include:

Shirley Brekken, MS, RN, FAAN, a nationally recognized accomplished leader in nursing regulation having served as the chief executive officer for the Minnesota Board of Nursing 1999-2021
Siobhan McMahon, PhD, MPH, GNP-BC, associate professor at the School of Nursing, a gerontological nurse practitioner, and nurse researcher with a focus on promoting health and wellness across diverse older adult populations with fall risk
Vincent Peters, MASW, inaugural director of community engagement at the School of Nursing, who previously served as assistant provost for the Office of Off-Campus Programs and International Studies at Bethel University, pioneering various initiatives to foster students’ active engagement in local communities through Academic Service-Learning, vibrant campus-urban community partnership, and robust study abroad opportunities
Teddie Potter, PhD, RN, FAAN, FNAP, clinical professor, inaugural director of Planetary Health, specialty coordinator of the Doctor of Nursing Practice in Health Innovation and Leadership, and holder of the Pauline A. Vincent Chair of Public Health
Holly Shaw, PhD, RN, represents the International Council of Nurses within the United Nations system, including Civil Society leadership in appointed and elected positions in the Department of Global Communication and the Economic and Social Council.

Dean Connie White Delaney, PhD, RN, FAAN, FACMI, FNAP, will serve as ex officio director, and Midori Green, PhD, will continue to serve as center administrator.

“The Katharine J. Densford International Center for Nursing Leadership for 25 years has made indelible marks on nursing and leadership. As a school, society and world we are increasingly recognizing and celebrating our interdependency, interconnectedness and call for unwavering team, partnership, and collaboration for deeply transformational impact,” says Delaney. “It is time for us to co-design and role model a new leadership model that exemplifies the mutual respect and interrelationship of tenure track/tenured and clinical track faculty and staff, local to global lens, and expanded partnerships. The directorate represents a team of mutual decision makers representing values and qualities of optimism, partnership, collaboration, humility, ‘we are,’ global/local, systems thinkers, emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and inclusivity, diversity and equity commitment. This team builds on the past and will expand honoring different ways of knowing and advocacy as foresight drives the wholeness of head-heart essence to enhance the survival and vibrancy of nurses, nursing and leadership.”

The Densford Center’s new leadership recently adopted a new vision and mission.

The new vision is: Nurses will lead the collaborative transformation of individual, population, global and planetary health.

The new mission is: The Densford Center advances innovative leadership development of nurses and nursing through interprofessional education, research, advocacy and community engagement.

A storied history

Established in 1997, the Katharine J. Densford International Center for Nursing Leadership was the nation’s first university-based center dedicated to improving health care worldwide through the development and promotion of nurses as leaders. The Densford Center’s namesake, Katharine J. Densford, was the director of the University of Minnesota School of Nursing from 1930 to 1959. She held offices in almost every nursing organization of the time and, more importantly, was an agent for social change. The inaugural director of the Densford Center was Kreitzer, who led the center from 1997-2000. Disch, led the center from 2000-2012, and Pesut led it from 2012-2020.

Next era

The next era of the center builds upon and expands the foundational values of the center, including: committing to and engaging in relationships that promote “power with” rather than “power over” others; collaborating with interprofessional, transdisciplinary, community, and global partners to move toward health equity and improved health for everyone; honoring different ways of knowing, including personal, cultural, situational, ethical, empirical, and Indigenous knowledge systems; respecting the dignity and wellbeing of all; advocating for inclusivity, diversity, equity, and justice, working from a mindset of abundance rather than scarcity, and hope rather than fear; and considering policy implications for all initiatives and actions.

The adoption of initial initiatives by the directorate will lead the Densford Center into this new era. The new initiatives include:

Academic, Practice and Community Partnerships: Invigorate the impacts of active collaboratories, community partnerships, and the University of Minnesota’s commitment to public engagement with research-based, results-oriented endeavors that ensure health equity and access is at the forefront of nursing practice.
Establishing a Center for Nursing Leadership and Engagement at the United Nations: Through synergy with the Densford Center and the United Nations Center for Nursing Leadership and Engagement, promote preparation and engagement of nurses to represent underrepresented peoples in discussions about planetary health, human rights, global health and other global challenges at the United Nations.  
Cultivating Bold Visionary Leadership: Advance systems thinking and further develop the science and practice of leadership through interprofessional and transdisciplinary partnerships and innovative networks with local and global community partners.
Nursing Impact: Key to a Viable and Vital Future: Engage communities and partner with legislators and interprofessional peers to champion policy reforms.

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