Visionary leader steps to the helm for UMass Lowell Nursing

(Brigid Archibald/ Connector)

Brigid Archibald
Connector Editor 

Dean Leslie Neal-Boylan continues her listening tour into her second month as the new Dean of Solomont School of Nursing and the Vice Dean of the Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences. She hopes to learn about the needs of the program from her staff and students.

Previously, Neal-Boylan served as the Dean of Academic Affairs and Program Innovation at MGH Institute of Health Professions. Before that, she served other leadership and faculty positions at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, Quinnipiac University and Southern Connecticut State University. Throughout this work, she has maintained her clinical work and dedicated 11 years to research on nurses with disabilities.

The research opportunities and the Ph.D. Nursing program were part of UMass Lowell’s appeal explained Dean Neal-Boylan. It was the things she heard about from her colleagues in Connecticut who attended and worked at UMass Lowell that attracted her. In particular, having a nursing program as a part of the health sciences promotes collaboration and Interprofessional Education.

“Being able to in the case of health sciences being able to take students, for example, from nursing nutrition, public health and physical therapy and say, ‘Let’s assess this together. Develop a plan together.’, and that’s what happens in the real world,” said Neal-Boylan.

Neal-Boylan said she wants the students to think of her as accessible, someone who understands what they are seeing and what they are learning. For that reason, she has kept up on clinical through the years and why she will be helping at the Health Center.

“I think knowing who the dean is and having that direct ear can be very helpful,” said Neal-Boylan, explaining why she plans on speaking to presidents of on-campus nursing organizations and the students they represent.

“What I feel, in a nutshell, is the dean’s role is to really facilitate the work of the faculty, so that the faculty can focus on promoting student success,” said Neal-Boylan. “The dean should be creating, cultivating an environment where faculty can work to their best, and they have the resources, they can provide the resources to the students. And give the students the best we have to offer. Because that’s the business we’re all in student success.”

Neal-Boylan is excited to continue her research on the nurses with disabilities and even hopes to carry on the nursing school’s spirit of collaboration by teaming up with the College of Engineering. She sees the research on assistive technology as a chance to change the belief in health sciences that specific physical standards need to be met by nurses, doctors and physical therapists.

Neal-Boylan sees this research as an opportunity for her school to say, “How do we partner with engineering, with assisted technology, with physical therapy and others to say ‘Well, the student has the academic ability to be a nurse. They’re motivated. How do we make that happen for them?’”

Neal-Boylan explained she is still learning about the school, its students and faculty, so while there will be changes, they should not expect anything immediately.

“I think we have a really excellent nursing program, but the curriculum is dynamic, and there’s a lot of things changing in the profession so well be looking at continuing to keep up to be cutting edge,” said Neal-Boylan.

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