College of Nursing taps alumna for diversity, equity and inclusion advisory role

June 10, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Penn State College of Nursing is committed to promoting an inclusive culture that supports all educational initiatives, workplace well-being, and a constructive environment for all individuals, no matter of race, color, nationality, sex, religion or age. To aid in this effort, Sheldon D. Fields, associate dean for equity and inclusion and research professor, has appointed Karyn Holley as an inaugural member of the new College of Nursing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) alumni advisory committee.

A photo of Karyn Holley wearing a cap and gown.

Penn State alumna Karyn Holley has been named an inaugural member of the new College of Nursing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion alumni advisory committee.

IMAGE: Karyn Holley

“With the Office of the Associate Dean for Equity and Inclusion being new, the involvement of accomplished alumni such as Karyn Holley is vitally important as we begin to advance DEI initiatives. I welcome her willingness to serve as an advisor to my office and look forward to working with her,” said Fields.

Holley began as a nursing student in the College of Human Development, now known as the College of Health and Human Development, at University Park after transitioning from Philadelphia in 1983. Her experiences as a Penn State student give her better insight as to how the University and College of Nursing can provide a more welcoming and inclusive environment for each community member.

“I believe people are more understanding and appreciative of diversity and inclusion today, because not every person is going to be a certain race or sex. We have to be able to speak for everyone in the organization, as well as the people you're serving,” Holley said. “If my voice can be heard, then there can perhaps be improvements in nurse recruiting from all backgrounds for any qualified individual interested in starting a nursing career.”

Holley always had an inclination for health and science, and according to her mother, was always looking to help those in need. Nursing was a natural fit, and Holley also knew that if she were to become a nurse, she would never be without a career.

“I knew that nursing would put me in both the health and science area. At the same time, being able to make a difference in people's lives is very important to me,” said Holley. “When you’re taking care of patients, you’re taking care of their families, too, and that has always been something special for me.”

Holley said that her experiences at Penn State and affiliated clinicals and internships were overwhelmingly positive, meeting many of her good friends and future colleagues from across the country, including her husband, who was an engineering major at the time.

“He and I both had a positive experience at Penn State. And although I felt a little isolated at times with the transition to Hershey and being away from my central group of friends, it was still a great and positive place to experience nursing clinicals,” she said.

After graduation, Holley returned to Philadelphia to begin her nursing career at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, working as a medical-surgical nurse in the oncology unit — a unit specifically for chemotherapy and cancer patients, and occasionally surgical patients.

“Medical-surgical nursing was a great start for me,” said Holley. “I came to better understand the aging process, disease process, medications, and other things that I didn’t experience during clinicals. There's so much to learn on the nursing floor that you just don't pick up during classes.”

Although Holley loved her time as a nurse, she decided to transition into health care management, returning to graduate school for health administration at St. Joseph's University. Upon earning her master’s degree, Holley moved to Connecticut and began working in a high-risk maternity unit and later began working as a manager at a federally qualified health center in the pediatric clinic.

Over the coming years, she obtained her certification as a legal nurse consultant and professional certifications in health care risk management and health care compliance. She later became board certified as a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives — a designation among leaders designed to demonstrate competency in all areas of health care management.

“Being able to obtain this high level of expertise in quality health care management as an executive enables potential to run a nursing home or a large health care facility,” said Holley. “That was something that I wanted for myself — to be able to lead in health care and have enough management knowledge to step up.”

Holley currently works as a corporate compliance officer for Visiting Nurses Association Health Group, leading the organization in ensuring all federal and state regulations are being followed and making sure quality of care is prioritized.

She also presents on multiple occasions to the Health Care Compliance Association national conferences and is an annual guest speaker for the Penn State Mont Alto's business ethics undergraduate course.

While the DEI alumni advisory committee's mission is still in the early stages of development and execution, more information can be found online from the College of Nursing.

(Media Contacts)

Brooke Killmon

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Last Updated June 14, 2021