University of Calgary


October 15, 2009
It was a more formal look for nursing students in 1973.

Nursing turns 40

Forty years ago, the Faculty of Nursing had 50 students and was located on the 14th floor of the Education Tower. It’s come a long way since then.

Not only has the faculty physically moved on from those humble beginnings, it has evolved into a formidable force in Canadian nursing education, accepting 300 first-year students each year, conducting leading-edge research and introducing some of the country’s most innovative teaching practices.

The Faculty of Nursing will honour its four decades of nursing education today with a celebration at the Rozsa Centre.

“Of course those early days were very challenging, but also very rewarding,” says Professor Emeritus Nan Sparks, who will host the event. She joined the small faculty in 1971. “In the first few years, the classes were much smaller than they are now and the faculty got to know each student fairly well, which made us feel much like a family.  We all struggled together in sometimes difficult circumstances.”

Karen-Lee Olson, who was hired in 1971, was the third support staff member in the faculty, and she remained there until her retirement in 2006. She says that, like any developing program, there were highs and lows.  

“The faculty has had 12 changes in leadership in 40 years. I worked for all of those administrations, and although some of the changes were stressful, I believe we found the positives and everyone weathered the storms as best they could,” she says. “We came out better and stronger, and it was a remarkable place to work.”

Although much has changed in 40 years, the high standard of nursing education set in those early days still remains, says Dean Dianne Tapp. “Teaching and learning in the Faculty of Nursing continue to evolve in ways that advance experiential learning, evidence-informed clinical practice and high-quality engagement between students and faculty members.”

Sparks is proud of her role in the 40-year history of the faculty.  “I do feel I contributed to the development of the program and am excited to be part of the celebration.”

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