University of Southern Indiana

Nursing Alumni Award Recipients

2019
Adrienne Bond BSN ’16, a registered nurse at the Vanderburgh Health Department, is the 2019 recipient of the University of Southern Indiana Distinguished Nursing Alumni Award. She works in the Pre to 3 Program, which provides support for mothers, infants and families to reduce risks associated with infant mortality, and is certified as a lactation consultant and car seat technician.

Before the Pre to 3 Program launched, Bond was instrumental in helping develop policy, standards and the model currently implemented for home visiting. Her nominator stated, “I am nominating Adrienne for the dedication and professionalism she has exemplified in her position as a Pre to 3 nurse. Adrienne is passionate about her role in our program and about the families that she serves. She has been a mentor for our new staff, helped organize continuing education opportunities, and promotes our program through outreach opportunities.”

When accepting the award during USI Nursing’s annual White Coat Ceremony, held September 8, Adrienne spoke to the value of her nursing education at USI. “The USI nursing program helped equip me to practice nursing in a variety of settings,” she said. “The emphasis on taking care of the whole patient and focusing on the small things that patients truly remember is such an important value that is instilled into USI nursing students. The program prepares students to hone the compassionate values of our nursing founders so that they shine through in the work of modern nursing today.”

2018
Abby Schmitt ’06, MSN ’16, nurse clinician in Medical Services at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center in Jasper, is the 2018 recipient of the USI Distinguished Nursing Alumni Award.

Schmitt has invested many educational years at USI, having completed three degrees in nursing: associate of science (ASN), bachelor’s (BSN) and master’s (MSN). In her current position, she serves as a role model to current nursing students doing clinical hours at the hospital.

Schmitt’s nominator described her as patient with student questions, encouraging to their efforts and proactive in creating optimal clinical learning experiences. The nominator added, “Her influence on building student competence and confidence is a very powerful piece of support for the next generation of bedside nurses and future nurse leaders.”

When accepting the award during USI Nursing’s annual White Coat ceremony, held August 26, Schmitt gave advice to up-and-coming nurses in the room. “There are so many directions to take a nursing career. No end of the ladder is better than the other, but whatever you choose to do, do it well,” she said. “I was lucky to encounter some great mentors along my path. Surround yourself with those that push you to be better. If you set your expectations high, people will notice.”

She added, “It is easy to say that as a nurse, you will touch a life every day; but, be observant of those lives that end up touching yours. Nursing isn’t just a career choice that you pick up at a job fair; nursing is a lifestyle. You are shaped by all encounters, patient and non-patient related, and that will help you develop your own brand.”

Each year, the USI Nursing Alumni Society recognizes a graduate who has made outstanding achievements in a career or public service.

2017
Kimberly J. Harper, chief executive officer of the Indiana Center for Nursing (ICN), is the 2017 recipient of the University of Southern Indiana’s Distinguished Nursing Alumni Award.

Harper received degrees in Nursing and Health Services from USI. She has held nursing positions in administration and education in Evansville and Indianapolis. Under her leadership, the Indiana Center for Nursing has grown and is now identified as the voice of nursing in the state of Indiana by bringing leaders from nursing education and nursing service together.

“I have known Kim for the last six years through working with ICN, and what I think is most special about Kim is her love and passion for nursing,” said Dr. Ann White, dean of the USI College of Nursing and Health Professions. “She is a tremendous ambassador for nursing in the community and has gained a national reputation because of her service.”

Harper serves as co-chair of the National Nurse on Boards Coalition, which represents all of the major nursing organizations with a goal to have 10,000 nurses on community and health care-related boards by 2020. She is also a member of the Indiana Governor’s Task Force for Healthcare Education, Pipeline, and Training.

In this past year, she has presented at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women; the International Council of Nursing Congress in Barcelona, Spain; the National Forum of State Nursing Workforce Centers; Sigma Theta Tau International Research conference in Cape Town, South Africa; and the National Hartford Center for Geriatric Nursing Excellence conference.

White presented the Distinguished Nursing Award to Harper during USI’s White Coat Ceremony on August 25 for junior students beginning their first clinical course. 

2016
In 2016, two USI graduates were nominated for their leadership in launching a new clinical education model, the Dedicated Education Unit (DEU). “These two distinguished alumni modeled authentic, transformational leadership through partnering with their alma mater to improve patient care on their units and provide optimal clinical education environments for USI students,” said Jordan Morrison, co-president of the USI Nursing Alumni Society.

Recipients of the 2016 USI Distinguished Nursing Award are Angela Stroud, MSN, RN, CMSRN, NE-BC of Deaconess Hospital, Evansville, and Lilly Cassel of St. Mary’s Medical Center, Evansville.

Stroud has been a licensed registered nurse since 1989. She completed her bachelor of science in nursing degree in May 2012 and her master of science of nursing degree in May 2016. At Deaconess, she is the department manager of the Oncology Pulmonary Care Center, Outpatient Infusion Center on 5100, Chancellor Center Infusion Center and Downtown Clinic Infusion Center.

Cassel received her bachelor of science in nursing degree from USI in 2010 and is currently enrolled in the master of science in nursing program. She is director of the Renal/Diabetic department and Acute Dialysis department at St. Mary’s.

2014
Katie DeFries, a neonatal intensive care nurse at Deaconess Women's Hospital who previously worked as a healthcare missionary in Africa, is the 2014 recipient of the USI Distinguished Nursing Alumna Award.

DeFries obtained two nursing degrees from USI:  She received her associate of science in nursing in 2003 and her bachelor of science in nursing in 2004. In 2008, she earned her master of science degree as a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner from Vanderbilt University School of Nursing.

In 2010, DeFries took her nursing expertise overseas by working as a missionary in Kenya, Africa, for three years with AfricaHope, a ministry of Mission Systems International, based in Fort Myers, Florida. Her work in Africa was focused on holistic health to impact principles of disease prevention and healthy living, including improving access to clean water, sanitation, hygiene and diet.

“My time in Kenya, the people I met and the things the Lord taught me changed my life,” said DeFries. “I learned a lot about myself in those three years. It made me stronger and more confident in myself, as well as grounded my identity more in Him.

DeFries, a native of New Harmony, Indiana, says many different people and instances in her life led her to pursue a career in nursing, including her father who is a physician, two aunts who are nurses, and her participation in the Deaconess Health Science Institute when she was a high school student. Before embarking with AfricaHope, she researched global missions and took several short-term missions trips, including one to Kenya five years before she moved there.

“The relationships and successes that God brought about during my time in Kenya were the biggest joys,” she said. “It was a privilege to be a part of what God is doing in Kenya … and all of the amazing travels, adventures and exploration of a beautiful country were definitely added bonuses.”

Linda Evinger, clinical assistant professor of nursing emerita, said DeFries “embodies the best of a USI nursing graduate.”

I remained in contact with Katie after she completed her baccalaureate in nursing from USI,” said Evinger. “She shared her dream of becoming a health care missionary in Africa. During her months of preparing to leave for Africa, Katie came and spoke to the nursing students about what she was about to do. Her excitement and commitment to helping others left many students inspired to consider the possibility of also becoming a missionary.”

DeFries said she is honored to receive the USI Distinguished Nursing Alumna Award.

“I have many fond memories of my time at USI, and I am so thankful for the amazing professors and clinical instructors I had there that gave me a great foundation from which to start my career,” she said. “I am proud to say I'm a nursing alumna of USI, and this awards means so much to me!”

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