MSU-Meridian announces inaugural Dean of Nursing Mary Stewart

Contact: Allison Matthews

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Mississippi State University-Meridian has selected the first dean for its recently announced Master of Science in Nursing degree program, the first graduate entry-level licensure program in the state. Mary W. Stewart

Mary W. Stewart will join MSU-Meridian effective July 1 to oversee the professional Accelerated Master’s Graduate Entry Nursing Program at the university’s Riley Campus, which is being developed as a health sciences campus. The nursing program will join the university’s existing Master of Physician Assistant Studies program and newly approved Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration program housed on that campus.

Stewart comes to MSU from her most recent role as a tenured professor and director of the Ph.D. program in nursing science at the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s School of Nursing in Jackson. She previously served as interim dean of the UMMC School of Nursing and dean of the Joseph and Nancy Fail School of Nursing at William Carey University. In addition to being a longtime faculty member, she has worked as a staff registered nurse for Forrest General Hospital and Methodist Hospital in Hattiesburg, among others. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing and was appointed to the Mississippi Board of Nursing in 2019.

Her MSU appointment is pending formal approval by the Board of Trustees, State Institutions of Higher Learning.

MSU Provost and Executive Vice President David Shaw said, “Mississippi State has been evaluating matters of critical importance in our state, and addressing the shortage of qualified health professionals is among our top priorities. To create a top-quality program, we are seeking top-quality faculty. I am confident in Dr. Stewart’s ability to lead this new program administratively, and I appreciate that she brings the benefits of her experience as an academic leader, a registered nurse for over 30 years, and a Mississippian who is invested in the future of our state and committed to taking care of what matters.”

Associate Vice President and Head of Campus Terry Dale Cruse said he is eager to welcome Stewart to MSU-Meridian as leaders further develop the 12-month, fast-track pathway designed to prepare college graduates holding non-nursing degrees for initial registered nurse licensure.

“Dr. Stewart is well regarded as a leader in her field throughout the state and nation. Her passion for developing innovative strategies to address nursing shortages and improve healthcare for Mississippians couldn’t connect better to our land-grant mission,” Cruse said.

The program offers a quality, direct entry route into a new career of nursing practice in hospitals and community settings. Cruse said the university gained initial, Stage 1 approval from the IHL Board of Trustees in February to take steps to establish the new program. Seeking approval for Stage II—and Initial Accreditation allowing for admission of students—will come later in the process, he explained.

Stewart applauded MSU’s efforts in initiating the new nursing pathway. “Commitment to graduate nursing education reflects understanding that a higher educated nursing workforce results in better outcomes for both patients and nurses,” she said. “The citizenry will benefit, and the healthcare workforce will be strengthened. Impactful and sustainable collaborations for health equity benefit generations,” Stewart added.

Stewart earned her Ph.D. in nursing science in 2002 at UMMC, where she also earned her master’s degree. Her undergraduate degree in nursing is from Mississippi College.

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