A Note From Dean Swanson

Black Lives Matter

With the recent tragic killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Dreasjon Reed, Ahmaud Arbery, Manuel Ellis, and Tony McDade among others and the resulting protests throughout our country, we are undeniably witnessing what racism has done, is doing, and will continue to do until each of us owns the truth that the color of our skin scripts our narratives, opportunities, and what we take for granted about the ‘way life is’ in the United States. How can it be that while black men, women and children have heard the volume of racism all around them, it has taken unfathomable serial deaths shared through the news and social media before so many more of us can see and even begin to heed what has been there all along?

Living in the ‘smog’ of racism, as Beverly Tatum calls it, conditions and/or affects each one of us. Sometimes the smog is so thick it is visible and other times it is much less obvious, but it is always there. Tatum writes: “None of us would introduce ourselves as ‘smog breathers,’…but if we live in a smoggy place, how can we avoid breathing the air?”  

As a community, and particularly for our students, staff, faculty, and alums of color, the events of these past weeks have once again made the smog visible and highlighted what it feels like to be dismissed, overlooked, objectified, criminalized and denied the status of having personhood.

As educators, we are called to evaluate what is needed. Beverly Tatum again guides us when she writes that “each of us needs to look at our own behavior [and ask], Am I perpetuating and reinforcing the negative messages so pervasive in our culture, or am I seeking to challenge them?” Be it in our classrooms, labs, hallways, clinical sites, homes, or neighborhoods, I ask our College of Nursing community (faculty, staff, students, and alums) to join me in discerning how our words, actions, practices and interactions might silence those whose voices we most need to hear.

Our graduates have dedicated themselves to caring for others. They will continue to face infectious disease pandemics and witness the results of the systemic social pandemic of racism. They will be called to care for those experiencing the pain of injustice, to stand in solidarity, and to take action to prevent racism and dismantle its many manifestations.

Now more than ever, I am convinced a Jesuit education is essential to providing nurses and diagnostic ultrasonographers with the compassion, competence, confidence, and resilience necessary to carry on the mission of cura personalis and transform health care for a just and humane world.


Tatum, B. (2010). Why are all the Black kids sitting together in the cafeteria? And other conversations about race. Basic Books: New York.

Tatum, B. (1999). When you’re called a racist. Education Digest, 65(1): 29-33.

Pedagogy and Pivoting

Under the rubric of hoping for the best and preparing for the unexpected, College of Nursing faculty and staff are fully engaged in the work of planning for students to safely return to clinical practice and resume activities in the Clinical Performance Lab (CPL).

Seattle University is currently exploring ways to resume learning on campus and ensure the safety of students, faculty and staff. This is no small feat. Considerations include, but are not limited to, how to maintain physical distancing, how to assess that individuals are symptom free when coming onto campus, and how to manage high-traffic spaces as students move between classes. The return also incorporates attention to capitalizing on teaching and learning innovations introduced through two quarters of successfully navigating in a virtual learning world.

Another challenge before us is how to celebrate postponed events, like Commencement and the 15th Anniversary of our CPL. While we continue to hope we can come together in person, in the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic we have learned to embrace a new mantra, “not yet, at least not that way.” For now, the best we can say on these longed-for celebrations is let’s wait and see.

However, I don’t want to delay acknowledging the grit and determination of our students, faculty, and staff in the face of the many challenges that this year has presented. I don’t think anyone expected the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife to be like this.

When Seattle University pivoted towards a totally remote teaching model in a matter of weeks, I believe we drew upon our collective commitment to the success of our students, and a bit of adrenaline, to make it happen. This was no small undertaking. We continue to work every day to find innovative solutions to the challenges our students are experiencing and to providing the best and safest clinical experiences possible during these unique and unforeseen circumstances.

The College of Nursing’s programs, students and graduates are critical to this region’s health care system. Yet, at this crucial time when our communities need them more than ever, our students have been unable to enter their clinical sites and skills labs. To ensure our students graduate ready for real-life practice in a drastically altered health care environment, we’ve invested in virtual clinical simulation software. You can read more about how our CPL team transitioned to virtual simulation later in this newsletter.

To our students, my guess is that you will forever be known as the nurses and sonographers who entered your new roles during a pandemic. Hard as it is, you are experiencing an immersion into practice during a time of crisis. Many of you have already been out on the frontlines working right alongside our faculty and alumni. I’m confident that you will rise to meet this challenge with magis and with grace.

I am proud of the work we do at Seattle University to prepare the next generation of compassionate, competent, and confident caregivers. Whether you are a student, alumni, or a beloved colleague in the work we do to educate and inspire leaders to transform health care for a just and humane world, thank you for your tireless commitment to the care of others.