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WVU scholarship gift aims to boost diversity among West Virginia nurses

Diana Mason

Diana J. Mason

West Virginia University School of Nursing students will benefit from an alumna’s scholarship gift to help boost diversity within the Mountain State’s nursing workforce.

Diana J. Mason, PhD, RN, FAAN, of Denver, New York, established the namesake scholarship to aid aspiring nurses at her alma mater. The scholarship will be awarded to undergraduate students from West Virginia, with first preference for students from historically marginalized and underrepresented racial and ethnic groups.

“I think it’s enormously important for our society to recognize that there have been structural barriers to people of color being able to get access to higher education,” Mason said. “There’s a lot of work we need to do in nursing, in health care and in society, and so, to me, this is important to do.”

The scholarship gift complements recent efforts to improve diversity, equity and inclusion campuswide at WVU.

“Better representation in healthcare leads to better patient outcomes,” said Tara Hulsey, Dean and E. Jane Martin Endowed Professor. “Through our curriculum and programs, as well as scholarships like the one generously provided by Diana Mason, we are creating a more inclusive educational environment, which will lead to more diverse and well-rounded providers.”  

Mason said her gift is also a tribute to the education she received at WVU, where she earned her bachelor’s degree from the School of Nursing in 1970.

“I had an amazing undergraduate experience with faculty who were mentors and in my corner even when I was determined to spend more of my time in the Mountainlair than in my room studying,” Mason said. “And it was the most innovative curriculum that I’ve ever seen out of a nursing school – ever, including today. I would not have the career and the life I have had if it had not been for the West Virginia University School of Nursing and some really important faculty to me who were advocates for me when I needed it.”

Mason nearly failed during her senior year, until her adviser, Patricia Diehl, intervened on her behalf. Faculty members Claire Mailloux and Gaynelle McKinney were also pivotal in her WVU nursing education, which emphasized the importance of public health and leadership.

Those lessons have guided her career, which is now focused on her passions – encouraging nurses to build healthier communities and empowering them to influence public policy through media. Mason serves as senior policy service professor for the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University’s School of Nursing and program director for the International Council of Nurses Global Nursing Leadership Institute.

Mason hopes her scholarship gift will nurture future leaders in the nursing profession.

“I hope it helps to produce a top-notch nurse who is going to continue to help this nation become a healthier nation and to promote the health of communities,” Mason said. “I want it to be someone who is all in and just needs a little bit of help to support them getting through what most people don’t understand is a hugely challenging program … I’d love to be able to build the nursing workforce in West Virginia, and there are a lot of potential nurses among minorities in West Virginia. The scholarship, I hope, will go to one of them.”

Mason, a native of Glenshaw, Pennsylvania, served in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps to help pay for college. Following her service as an intensive care nurse near the end of the Vietnam War, she continued her education at Louis University and New York University, where she earned master’s and doctoral degrees, respectively, in nursing.

Mason went on to work as a teacher, writer, editor, radio producer and moderator, among other roles. She is professor emerita at City University of New York’s Hunter College, past president of the American Academy of Nursing and former editor in chief of the American Journal of Nursing. She has received two honorary doctorates and many awards in recognition of her teaching, policy leadership and media work.

Mason was inducted into WVU’s Academy of Distinguished Alumni in 2001. She previously served on the WVU School of Nursing Visiting Committee.

Mason’s gift was made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University.

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