Dr. Debra Barksdale

Dr. Debra Barksdale has moved into her new house in Greensboro, and she’s getting settled into her new office in the Nursing and Instructional Building (NIB).

Barksdale has spent the past few months preparing for her tenure as the new dean of the UNC Greensboro School of Nursing, which officially began Monday, July 19. She has met with people around campus, and she has familiarized herself with the School of Nursing and the Greensboro area.

Barksdale managed to get a lot done before arriving for her first day as the dean. She joked, however, that one thing she hasn’t figured out yet is the quickest route from her house to the NIB.

Her iPhone keeps giving her different directions every time she heads to campus.

“I’m really excited to be starting. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time because I was in the hiring process that probably started back in the late fall,” Barksdale said. “And then here we are. I’m all moved in, at least the boxes are in, and I’ve had a little time to learn the area.”

Barksdale is a first-generation college graduate and a nationally recognized scholar, teacher, and practitioner. She brings a ton of energy, a wealth of fresh ideas, and a unique leadership style to the School of Nursing as it starts a new and exciting chapter in its 54-year history.

“I keep reminding myself that this is a marathon and not a sprint because I have a lot of ideas,” Barksdale said. “I am creative. I am innovative. I do like to challenge the status quo and think differently about things. I do like to take risks. I’m not a person who’s risk averse.”

Barksdale comes to UNCG after five years as a nursing professor and the associate dean of academic affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University. During her time at VCU, she grew its undergraduate and master’s students enrollment and led the development of a revised Nursing Leadership and Organizational Science concentration and a new graduate certificate in Healthcare Innovation.

Dr. Debra Barksdale

Prior to that, Barksdale spent 13 years at UNC Chapel Hill, leading both the Family Nurse Practitioner program and the Doctor of Nursing Practice program as its inaugural director. She was the first Black faculty member to achieve the rank of full professor with tenure in UNC’s School of Nursing.

Barksdale is now the first Black dean of the UNCG School of Nursing.

She already has a list of priorities she wants to work on, including reviewing the School of Nursing’s mission and vision statements to ensure that they address the School’s core values.

“Whether it is expanding and increasing research, research faculty, and research productivity or whether it’s expanding student numbers or academic programs, we already know that we’re going to have to do something differently and make some changes related to the new Essentials: Core Competencies for Undergraduate and Graduate Nursing Education produced by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing,” Barksdale said.

“I’ve already identified some areas in the School where we can have some more efficiencies, and I was really successful at doing that at my previous job.”

Barksdale was familiar with UNCG and knew several School of Nursing faculty members during her time at UNC Chapel Hill. She also served as a mentor to three former UNCG PhD students, including one of the School of Nursing’s most notable graduates in Dr. Ernest Grant ’93 MSN, ’15 PhD, who’s now president of the American Nurses Association.

“So I’ve been connected to UNCG, even though I wasn’t officially connected,” she said.          

Barksdale visited UNCG for the first time years ago when she attended a sorority meeting for Sigma Gamma Rho, Inc., which she’s a proud member of. She’s now learning her way around campus and looking at how to expand the School of Nursing under her leadership.

“I want people to be happy to come to work, so I want to make sure I continue to build a positive workplace environment. What that might look like in the future, whether we’re going to have a yoga studio or something like, I don’t know,” Barksdale said, laughing. “But I am really committed to doing that. I’m committed to seeing everybody grow and develop because I believe that as one person rises we all should rise.”

Story by Alex Abrams, School of Nursing

Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications

Videography by Thaddaeus Lamb, Courtesy of the School of Nursing