LaDonna Christian, Associate Professor of Practice and Director of the Dotson Bridge and Mentoring Program, has been awarded the Mary A. Manning Nurse Mentoring Award for her work supporting the Dotson Bridge and Mentoring Program at Simmons. Established by the American Nurses Association Massachusetts, the award is given annually to a nurse who has established a record of outreach to nurses in practice or students pursuing a nursing education. Before she officially received the award at a ceremony on April 13, we spoke with Christian about the Dotson Bridge program, and what the recognition means to her.
School of Nursing Associate Professor of Practice LaDonna Christian has been Director of the Dotson Bridge and Mentoring Program for nearly fourteen years. The program, established in 2009 with a gift from Simmons nursing alumna Phyllis Nickerson Dotson '62 and George Dotson, provides mentorship and leadership opportunities to African American, Latinx, Asian, and Native American (ALANA) and first-generation students in the nursing programs at Simmons University.
"We started with eight scholars and six mentors," Christian recalls. "We now have about 115 scholars in the program and twenty-four mentors." Christian has been instrumental in developing the program; this work, in addition to her mentorship of individual students, earned her the recognition of the American Nurses Association's Mary A. Manning Award.
Students eligible for the Dotson Bridge program are invited as freshmen to work with a mentor, with the goal of aiding student retention. "Students also meet with each other once a month to talk about how their month went," says Christian. "They form relationships with each other and learn how to support each other.
The mentors come from every nursing sector, including psychiatric, pediatric, and geriatric. MSN students are paired with nurse practitioners. "We also run study groups and workshops on medical terminology, and offer two leadership programs per year," says Christian. "This semester, we're supporting a workshop in partnership with the Student Nurses Association and the Nursing Students of Color organization, teaching students how to prepare for an interview, and practicing interview skills. Nurse leaders from the community will talk to students about interviewing, how to get a job, and what employers are looking for. We are also holding a second workshop on how to write a resume and cover letter. Our writing specialist, Georgette Arato, takes the students through the process of resume writing and helps them edit their resumes in the workshop."
Students from every Dotson Bridge cohort are invited to an open house every September. "We talk to them about what it means to be in college and let upperclassmen share words of wisdom," says Christian. "We have dinner and talk and try to take in the big picture. We tell them, these are the people who will help you get through your studies. We want to foster that sense of community."