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Alumni Engagement

VCU Nursing alumna Paula Saxby is on a mission to get more alumni involved in their school and in the university as a whole.

College alumni are known to express their school pride and loyalty in different ways. Some don attire in school colors or display a school license plate on their cars. Others cheer on their alma mater at athletic contests or return to campus to reconnect with classmates at reunions.  And then there are those who take it even further, volunteering time and talent to support their alma mater’s mission and goals. 

VCU School of Nursing alumna Paula Saxby, Ph.D., M. S., R.N., is on a mission to tap the time and talent of more alumni.  Dr. Saxby recently became president of the MCV Alumni Association, a role she will serve in for the next two years.

“We have the opportunity to increase membership, as well as get alumni engaged in their school and in the university as a whole,” Dr. Saxby said.  “Our goal is to get alumni involved at different levels, including with students.”

Her presidency demonstrates the School of Nursing’s record of developing leaders and offers increased exposure for the School among all VCU alumni.

“The School of Nursing is proud that one of our alumni has the opportunity to take the alumni association to new heights of excellence,” said Nancy Langston, Ph.D., R.N., FAAN, dean of the VCU School of Nursing. “We look forward to supporting Dr. Saxby’s efforts as we explore new approaches to getting more nursing alumni involved with the university.”

Dr. Saxby’s service with the alumni association began when she served as vice president of the Nursing Division for two terms. She then served as a board member at-large for two years, became president-elect for two years and took on her current role in July 2011. It’s a volunteer position, but Dr. Saxby welcomes it wholeheartedly, even amidst the challenges.

“There are discussions being held by both the VCU and MCV Alumni Associations boards to become better aligned with the university’s new strategic plan “Quest for Distinction,” said Dr. Saxby, who works full-time as deputy executive director of the Virginia Board of Nursing and also serves as an adjunct professor in the School of Nursing.  “The challenge for me as president is to move the university agenda forward while preserving and celebrating the heritage of MCV.   “I’m very committed to doing both.”

Dr. Saxby is no stranger to overcoming challenges.  When she was just out of high school she worked in a Bethesda, Md. primary care physician’s office as an assistant.

“I drew blood, gave injections and did lab results,” Dr. Saxby said. “He trained me to do everything”.

When her first husband, who was in the Navy, was transferred to Portsmouth Naval Hospital, she found herself in Portsmouth without a job. That’s when nursing school at Old Dominion University seemed like the best option.

“At that time I chose to attend ODU because there was talk about the entry into practice of nurses at the baccalaureate level,” she said. “Interestingly enough, we’re still talking about that 40 years later. “

Dr. Saxby earned a B.S.N. from ODU and then worked as a nurse in Norfolk before moving to Richmond to pursue an M.S. in psychiatric nursing and Ph.D. in nursing administration and health sciences research at the VCU School of Nursing.  She said she considered both VCU and UVA for continuing her nursing education, but chose VCU because of the faculty and the program.

“It didn’t hurt that I got divorced and then married someone from Richmond,” she added, while chuckling.  She also had her first child while in the Master’s program, and then had her second child while in the Ph.D. program.

Dr. Saxby’s Ph.D. from VCU was more than just a personal accomplishment – it represented a milestone for the School of Nursing, since her class was the first that graduated in the doctorate program.  She recalled how helpful it was to have Dr. Mary Corley as her nursing administration/leadership mentor and Dr. Janet Younger on her dissertation committee.

“She (Dr. Younger) was very helpful and supportive of me doing my own statistical analysis of my dissertation,” Dr. Saxby said.

Before her current position at the Virginia Board of Nursing, Dr. Saxby worked in various nursing and leadership positions, including assistant director of nursing at the Psychiatric Institute of Richmond, professor in the VCU School of Nursing, licensing administrator at the Department of Social Services, and project director of the Women’s Stress Resource Center (a National Institute of Mental Health funded research grant) at the UVA School of Nursing.

At the Virginia Board of Nursing, Dr. Saxby manages the approval process for all pre-licensure nursing education programs and nurse aide education programs in Virginia.  In addition to working full-time and leading the MCVAA, she teaches a nursing ethics course at the School of Nursing in its R.N. to B.S. program.

Dr. Saxby recommends that all levels of nurses continue their education toward advanced degrees in nursing. She also encourages School of Nursing alumni to get involved with alumni activities and engagement with the students. 

“We need your support now more than ever before,” Dr. Saxby said.  “It’s not only a nice thing to do, but it’s also a very rewarding experience.”

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