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Nursing honor society celebrates 40 years of leadership

November 25, 2014

Like a traditional honor society, East Carolina University's Beta Nu chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing requires incoming members to meet certain academic and professional achievement requirements. But the organization, which celebrated its 40th anniversary with a banquet Nov. 13, does much more than recognize scholarly excellence.

The group is one of only two of Sigma Theta Tau's 500 global chapters to have earned 11 Chapter Key Awards. Sigma Theta Tau bestows the honor on chapters that successfully recruit and retain members, generate publicity and programming, support scholarly activities, provide leadership development and foster international collaboration.

Beta Nu chapter is housed in the ECU College of Nursing and has more than 500 active members — including undergraduate students, graduate students and nurse leaders who work to advance the profession through scholarship, leadership and a variety of service projects.

"Beta Nu has been the most influential nursing organization in my career," said College of Nursing Dean Dr. Sylvia Brown. "It allowed me to engage with nurse leaders nationally and internationally and refine my own personal leadership skills." Brown, a past president, said that providing leadership opportunities for career growth is one of Beta Nu's greatest contributions. Several of the College of Nursing's senior faculty members were founding or early members, and ECU's Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences Dr. Phyllis Horns was a charter member.

Former President Dr. Lou Everett explained that Beta Nu consistently sends students and faculty to research and leadership academies organized through Sigma Theta Tau and its partners. Over the past 40 years, she said, members have served in numerous official capacities at regional and national levels.

Karen Krupa on panel at ECU CON BetaNu 40 celebration
Reis (left), Woody (center), and Krupa at BetaNu banquet

"It was truly through Beta Nu Chapter that many of our faculty began to see the contributions that the College of Nursing made to a global society and the world at large," said Everett, the college's assistant to the dean for the undergraduate program. "We became mentors to other chapters in our state and continued more involvement on an international level by serving on the ballot for various positions."

Many members routinely attend Sigma Theta Tau's biennial convention, where they can network with 2,000 other attendees, hear plenary speakers and present their work through oral and poster presentations.

"You meet the people who write the textbooks and research articles," Karen Krupa, past Beta Nu president and an ECU clinical assistant professor of nursing, said of the conference. "You're kind of in awe that you're in the presence of all these people who are so important in the profession. You bring back that enthusiasm and you share that with a few other people who get excited and want to get involved."

Beta Nu also stands out for its record of giving back to the profession. It provides grants to support members' research, and has given $11,000 in student scholarships since 2005. The organization also co-sponsors Collaborative Nursing Research Day, a joint venture between Beta Nu, the ECU College of Nursing, Vidant Medical Center and the Eastern Area Health Education Consortium. The event provides a venue for continuing education and gives nurses an opportunity to showcase their research and creative projects.

The community at large is another beneficiary of Beta Nu's outreach. Scout Out Nursing Day, held biannually at the College of Nursing, has introduced more than 500 Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to the profession since its inception in 2007.

Donna Roberson and Phyllis Horns at BetaNu 40th celebration
Roberson (left) and Horns at banquet

Asked what Beta Nu's future holds, President Dr. Donna Roberson, said the group is working to be member focused, with a global perspective. This direction matches ECU's strategic goals and that of Beta Nu's parent organization, which has 135,000 members in 85 countries. Sigma Theta Tau's president, Hester Klopper of South Africa, has issued a call for chapters to "serve locally, transform regionally, lead globally." "I see us having a wider base of influence beyond our community and having an international impact," said Roberson, an associate professor of nursing.

Existing international projects include providing nursing student scholarships and mentorship to the Faculty of Nursing Science of the Episcopal University of Haiti. Beta Nu also makes donations to a clean water initiative that has provided water filters to more than 70 families in Guatemala since 2008.

At the group's 40th anniversary banquet, a panel of past presidents shared Beta Nu memories, including Everett, Krupa, Assistant Professor of Nursing, Dr. Pam Reis, and Clinical Associate Professor of Nursing Dr. Gina Woody. Reis highlighted the many opportunities for mentorship that the organization provides. "I was thinking about when I was inducted in 1991… I never realized I would become president, but I had such wonderful mentors," Reis said. "You all have meant the world to me."

Woody reflected on Beta Nu's impact and succinctly summed up the group's sentiments. "I feel as if Beta Nu has provided numerous opportunities for our students as well as members and the community," she said. "I think we should be very proud of our chapter."