(COLLEGE STATION, TX) — It was an historic afternoon May 15 for the Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) College of Nursing as it officially became the Phi Iota Chapter, Chapter No. 487, of the prestigious Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI) organization for nurse leaders.

Phi Iota Officers, from left, Mary Alice Middlebrooks, Kathryn Cochran, Dr. Diane Benson, Anne Rathke, Dr. Ann Utterback, Dr. Karen Landry

STTI is the only international nursing honor society. More than 130,000 members belong to 470 chapters in more than 90 countries and territories worldwide.

“When the College of Nursing began, community nurses who are STTI members asked how soon we could have a chapter here so they could continue active membership,” said Sharon Wilkerson, Ph.D., RN, dean of the TAMHSC-College of Nursing. “This prompted us to develop a local honor society in preparation of applying to STTI. The quality of our students also impelled us to develop a chapter as soon as possible. Faculty and community members were diligent in their efforts to meet the STTI requirements, and we are very proud to have been approved as a new chapter.”

Joining Dr. Wilkerson and numerous nursing faculty, staff and students at the Traditions Club in Bryan was Gwen Sherwood, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, STTI vice president from the national office in Indianapolis, Ind.

“Nursing schools are complicated, and it’s very serious business to prepare a nurse,” said Dr. Sherwood, chartering officer for the ceremony. “For the Texas A&M Health Science Center to take this bold step and get the College of Nursing under way and then achieve chapter status at such a young history is quite an accomplishment.”

To be considered for an STTI chapter, the TAMHSC-College of Nursing had to establish a college honor society, reach at least 50 members and provide programs for a minimum of one calendar year. After students and community nurse leaders were inducted into an honor society and other requirements were met, the STTI Board of Directors and the STTI delegates approved the college’s new chapter.

TAMHSC-College of Nursing Honor Society officers for 2010-11 are Dr. Wilkerson, president; Anne Rathke, Blinn College professor, vice president; Karen Landry, Ph.D., M.S.N., RN, assistant professor, secretary; Sonia Turnbow, M.S.N., WHNP, assistant professor, treasurer; and Kathryn Cochran, M.S.N., RN, assistant dean for student affairs and adjunct professor, and Mary Alice Middlebrooks, M.S.N., RN, assistant professor, counselors. Phi Iota Chapter officers for 2011-12 are Dr. Landry, president; Ann Utterback, Ph.D., RN, CNE, assistant professor, vice president; Rathke, secretary; Diane Benson, Ed.D., RN, associate professor, treasurer; and Cochran and Middlebrooks, counselors.

Membership in STTI is by invitation and extended to undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and professional nurses who have demonstrated superior scholastic, leadership and nursing achievements.

“I lived here from 1970-75, and now to come back and welcome this honor society into the larger organization is just sheer joy,” Dr. Sherwood said. “I’m proud of the things they’ve done. They are doing really creative things with the faculty, and it is a college that will really gain national prominence.”

STTI is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to improve the health of people worldwide through leadership and scholarship in practice, education and research. Founded in 1922, members include practicing nurses, instructors, researchers, policymakers, entrepreneurs and others.

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