Nursing leader and Navy veteran takes top post at Vanguard University’s nursing program

Mary Wickman, a U.S. Navy veteran who has served in key nursing positions in southern California, was named the director of the nursing program at Vanguard University effective July 1, bringing with her nearly four decades of leadership in the field of nursing.

“When I first met Dr. Wickman a few years ago, I knew that she would be a great fit with Vanguard’s mission and would bring a wealth of expertise, experience and heart to our growing nursing program,” says Vanguard president Carol Taylor. “Her experience in directing large grants and building strong graduate programs is exactly what we need as we launch our new MSN program.”

Wickman comes most recently from the large nursing program at CSU Fullerton where she was hired to start a program to train nurses to earn their bachelor’s and master’s degrees. The position involved starting up a simulation lab, creating curriculum, hiring faculty and teaching. She won the CSU Fullerton Outstanding Faculty Recognition award in 2009-10 for scholarly and creative activity and the 2008 Best Practice Education Award from the Association of California Nurse Leaders.

Wickman earned her BSN from Mount St. Mary’s College and joined the U.S. Navy early in her career “to see the world and to do something for my country,” Wickman says. “It was a wonderful experience for a nurse.”

She served on active duty for three years and in the reserves for 18 years. In 1991 she was recalled in support of Desert Storm. In 2007 she won the United States Navy Meritorious Service Medal for outstanding achievement while serving as officer-in-charge of Detachment A, a unit for doctors, nurses and corpsmen, at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego.

“In military nursing you have the chance at a young age to step into leadership positions,” Wickman says. “I learned leadership skills that have served me well throughout my career.”

Wickman has held a wide variety of nursing positions in southern California, including at Hoag Memorial Hospital in Newport Beach, Saddleback Women’s Hospital in Laguna Hills, Tokos/Matria Obstetrical Clinical Services in Orange, and St. Joseph Hospital. She was chair of the department of nursing at Mount St. Mary’s College. She also served as director of nursing and health sciences at Santa Ana College for 15 years. Wickman holds her master’s degree and PhD from UCLA. She has chaired the Orange County Long Beach Consortium for Nursing and held many other industry-leading posts. On the academic side, Wickman has presented widely at conferences and is published in nursing journals.

Wickman accepted the position at Vanguard for the chance to integrate her faith and her work, and to help establish the University’s burgeoning master’s degree in nursing program. In the past she directed projects with grants totaling more than $2.5 million to improve aspects of nursing through education, lab expansion and more. She plans to employ that grant-writing expertise in her new position.

“I feel honored to be stepping into the program at a great time,” Wickman says. “I enjoy program development. In previous jobs I’ve written quite a few grants that have been funded and I hope to do the same thing at Vanguard.”

Wickman says Vanguard’s approach to education is what nurses need to excel at their jobs.

“Vanguard is student-oriented and service-oriented. Each student is seen as an individual and not as a number,” she says. “Faculty and staff attend to the whole student. That’s also what being a nurse is about. When you’re sick, you want someone who pays attention to all your needs — physical, psychological and spiritual. To be really effective, nurses need that kind of training and background.”

Wickman will maintain a periodic position as research coordinator at St. Jude Medical Center. She will also teach in the classroom at Vanguard.

“Before joining us full-time, Mary taught some adjunct courses in our BSN program, and the students adore her,” says President Taylor. “She will add to the tradition of Vanguard faculty — committed professionals who mentor and invest deeply in the lives of our students.”

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