Antonia Villarruel Named Dean of Penn School of Nursing

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Media Contact:Amanda Mott | | 215-898-1422February 27, 2014

Antonia Villarruel has been named dean of the School of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania, effective July 1. The announcement was made today by Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Vincent Price

Villarruel is currently a professor, the Nola J. Pender Collegiate Chair and the associate dean for research and global affairs at the University of Michigan School of Nursing. She also has ties to Penn’s School of Nursing. As an alumna of Penn Nursing, a faculty member in 1995-2000 and a collaborator and co-author with several Penn faculty, she has an understanding of the core values, traditions and aspirations of the School and the University.

“Toni Villarruel has the vision, expertise, energy and commitment to ensure that Penn’s School of Nursing continues to strengthen its local, national and global reputation for innovation and impact,” Gutmann said. “She is deeply committed to the central importance of recruiting the next generation of talented and diverse faculty and students to ensure the School’s continuing eminence.” 

“Toni’s record of accomplishments,” Price said, “demonstrates her commitment to academic excellence and interdisciplinary collaboration. Above all, she knows how to identify strategic priorities and then marshal the vision and resources to achieve them.”  

“I am thrilled and honored to be back at Penn,” Villarruel said, “and to have the opportunity to lead the next chapter of the amazing legacy of Penn Nursing. The Penn Compact 2020 is aligned with what nursing does best – creating access, integrating knowledge and making an impact locally and globally – and serves as a strong platform in which nursing can lead. I am looking forward to working with Penn and the Penn Nursing community as we move forward.”

 As associate dean for research and global affairs at Michigan’s nursing school, Villarruel has broad experience with nursing research and scholarship in all its forms: biomedical, biobehavioral, population-based, health services, policy-oriented, global and historical. She has led interdisciplinary and multi-school strategic planning processes that have helped the University of Michigan integrate the research, education and practice missions of the School, the Health System and the university as a whole. Her efforts to support nursing faculty in developing research programs have led to a steady increase in funding from the National Institutes of Health.

Villarruel’s commitment to interdisciplinary and global collaboration has been demonstrated by her track record of research and global engagement. She holds a joint faculty appointment in the School of Public Health at Michigan and serves as director of the School’s World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Research and Clinical Training in Health Promotion Nursing. 

Her scholarship focuses on developing, testing and disseminating health-promotion interventions for Latino, Mexican and Puerto Rican populations. She built and maintains a program of research focused on reducing sexual risk among Latino adolescents and has been the principal investigator or co-investigator on several studies funded by the NIH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The culturally responsive interventions she developed for parents and adolescents are being used by communities and practitioners throughout the United States.

Villarruel has been a long-standing advocate of diversity in education and practice. She was appointed to serve on the inaugural Secretary’s Advisory Council for Minority Health and Health Disparities for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She also served as president of the National Coalition of Ethnic Minority Nurse Associations, the umbrella group for ethnic minority nursing organizations, of which she was a founder, and of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses.

As dean, Villarruel will further expand the eminence and leadership of Penn Nursing and its ability to advance nursing science, education, practice and public policy. With more than 1,100 students and 340 globally renowned faculty members and teaching staff, the Penn Nursing is a model for curricular innovation, including a unique undergraduate curriculum, joint degree offerings and interdisciplinary educational experiences with other schools across the University.

Villarruel received her B.S.N. from Nazareth College in 1978, her M.S.N. from Penn Nursing in 1982, and her Ph.D. from Wayne State University in 1993. She became a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing in 1997 and was elected to the Institute of Medicine in 2007. 

She serves in several national leadership roles, including as a board member of the American Academy of Nursing, Institute of Medicine’s Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice and chair of the Roundtable on the Promotion of Health Equity and the Elimination of Health Disparities. She has also held leadership positions with the Council for the Advancement of Nursing Science, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy in New Mexico and CGFNS. She is a recipient of the President's Award for Health Behavior Intervention Research from the Friends of the National Institute of Nursing Research, Edge Runner Award from the American Academy of Nursing, National Black Nurses Association Trailblazer Award and Harold R. Johnson Diversity Service Award from the University of Michigan.

Villarruel will succeed Afaf I. Meleis, the dean since 2002. During Meleis’ tenure, Penn Nursing has established itself as one of the world’s preeminent schools of nursing, distinguished by its commitment to educating the profession’s future leaders and advancing the science of nursing.