SAN MARCOS — When nursing students go back to the Cal State San Marcos campus next week, they’ll be returning to a program with a new director for the university’s School of Nursing.
Tom Olson, who most recently worked as the interim dean at Northeastern University’s School of Nursing, stepped into the role as the director last month. He replaces Pamela Kohlbry, who served as the interim director for the past school year.
Diversity within the nursing field is one of Olson’s top goals at the university and he hopes the school will continue to receive the Graduating American Indians into Nursing grant. The GAIN program encourages Native American students to enter the nursing field by covering the cost of tuition, fees and books, as well as providing a stipend of $1,500 per month for each student.
“We have a very small percentage of American Indians, native Americans who practice as nurses,” Olson said. “That’s a tremendous initiative that I look forward to working on and furthering.”
The effort to bring the grant to CSUSM was led by Denise Boren, an associate professor and a former director for the School of Nursing.
CSUSM is one of only five colleges throughout the country to receive the 2016-2019 grant from Indian Health Services. The other campuses include Arizona State University, University of North Dakota, Montana State University and Salish Kootenai College in Montana.
Boren has once again submitted a grant application for the next cohort of the program.
“I’m very hopeful that the grant will be continued, that it will get new funding,” Olson said.
Olson also said he looks forward to bolstering the School of Nursing’s new simulation program in his role as the program director. Through simulation, nursing students “practice without the anxiety of making a mistake with a real person,” he said.
“We anticipate that simulation will be an increasingly large part of nursing education in the future,” Olson said. “Part of my role is really building up our infrastructure in that area.”
Previously, Olson worked as a professor and an administrator at the University of Texas at El Paso, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Mercy College and New York University. Olson received both his doctorate degree in nursing and a master’s degree in psychiatric-mental health nursing from the University of Minnesota.
While at the University of Texas, he focused his research on studying obsessive compulsive disorder on both sides of the United States-Mexico border. He has also studied the evolution of nursing education.
“We are so pleased that Dr. Olson has joined our campus community,” said Emiliano Ayala, the dean of CSUSM’s College of Education, Health and Human Services. “Dr. Olson comes with a wealth of experience in nursing education from various professional roles he has held in the past.”
Ayala added that he looks “forward to his vision and leadership for the School of Nursing as it strengthens its programs and continues to prepare high-quality nursing graduates.”
In his free time, Olson said he likes to spend time with his partner, write and swim. He also said he’s looking forward to exploring the hiking trails in San Diego’s North County.
Top: Tom Olson took over as director of the Cal State San Marcos School of Nursing in July. Photo courtesy CSUSM