Incoming UArizona College of Nursing Alumni Council President Has Big Hopes for the Future

Sept. 19, 2022

For Melissa Goldsmith, PhD, RNC, assuming the role of University of Arizona College of Nursing Alumni Council President was the natural next step in a long and textured career in nursing. A 2004 alumna of the College’s Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program, Dr. Goldsmith fully appreciates the experiences and opportunities her career – and her training from UArizona Nursing – have afforded her. That knowledge fills her with a sense of excitement about what she hopes to accomplish during her two-year term as president.

“I spent 12 years at the bedside as a staff nurse, and during that time I had leadership opportunities as a charge nurse and as an Assistant Nurse Manager,” she says. “I worked as a research nurse at the College of Medicine. I am now a nurse educator and have taught clinical and both in person and online classrooms and I’ve been able to delve into leadership in nursing education, so the opportunities are endless.”

“I look forward to representing the alumni council and really getting the word out about what we do, and also being involved with events like homecoming that engage our alumni, students, and potentially faculty at the College of Nursing. This is a great opportunity to become involved again with a really great organization," ~ Melissa Goldsmith, PhD, RNC, University of Arizona College of Nursing Alumni Council President

It was Dr. Goldsmith’s positive experience in the College’s PhD program that truly solidified her desire to give back to the alumni who came before and who come after her. “I really loved the program,” she says. “I loved our professors, and the cohort I was with. It really changed the way I looked at nursing as well as the way I looked at knowledge. There were parts of it that were hard, of course, but it really prepared me for what I’m doing now.”

Since childhood, Dr. Goldsmith has been a natural caretaker/nurturer. By the time she was 12, she was both babysitting and pet sitting for neighbors, signs that caring for others was an important cornerstone of her personality. Both of her parents were teachers – her father a high school bio-chemistry teacher and her mother an elementary school teacher – impressing her with the importance of education from an early age. “I would go and visit my father’s lab, which was full of really interesting things, so science and knowledge were really important to me,” she says. “As I reached the end of high school, I was very interested in a career where I could combine the skills of science and teaching for a career.”

A high school aptitude test that indicated her aptitudes would lead her to success in either teaching or nursing sealed the deal. “That validated my thoughts about a career in a caring science was something that aligned with my skills, knowledge, and aptitude,” she says. “I tell my students when I introduce myself that I really think education was in my genes because as I went through undergraduate nursing school and I watched what my professors were doing in their career, I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, you can be a teacher and a nurse!’ I knew by the time I was finishing up my undergraduate program that eventually I wanted to teach nursing.”

As the new College of Nursing Alumni Council President, Dr. Goldsmith is grateful her experience as an alumna and is enthusiastic about the chance to employ her leadership skills to enrich the lives and careers of her fellow alumni.  In the past, she was an active Council member, helping to lead the College’s 50th Anniversary planning and homecoming planning efforts, but other responsibilities consumed her attention since then. After Nursing Alumni Council Board of Directors member Helena Morrison, PhD, RN, asked for her help with an awards vote, Dr. Goldsmith was newly inspired. “I started to attend the meetings and then was invited to consider taking over as President when Margie Pazzi’s term was up,” she says. “It was a great opportunity to become involved again with a really great organization.”

As for her term as UArizona Nursing Alumni Council president, Dr. Goldsmith plans to build on what Margie Pazzi began. She hopes to organize two alumni events each year – the grand affair that is homecoming but also a second event in the spring that will focus on honoring the alumni of the year. A cornerstone of her vision is to strengthen the interactions that alumni have with current students. “We want to focus on events that are really centered around getting involved with the students, and having our students get to know our alumni council members,” she says. 

During her term, Dr. Goldsmith is especially excited about getting the word out about the Council’s activities through planning events that are fun and engaging for alumni, students, and other faculty members.  With its eye on both the past and the future, freed more than ever from the constraints of COVID, the Alumni Council will be prepared to address the varied needs of all Wildcat Nurses.

Asked about her advice for students considering enrolling in a UArizona Nursing program, Dr. Goldsmith highlights the need for openness and courage.  “Students who are considering our college need to know that we have a very long track record of providing really excellent programs and that our outcomes have been very strong for a long time,” she says. “In a broader sense, choosing nursing as a career is such a great choice because there are so many opportunities, so many different things that you can do with a nursing degree. The opportunities are deep and meaningful. When I talk to students about opportunity, I always tell them ‘When opportunities arise -- and they may be different from what you expect -- don’t be afraid to explore those opportunities. Sometimes the opportunities that arise come up just at the right time. Embrace opportunity, don’t fear it. A lot of students go to nursing school, and they think they’re going to spend the rest of their career working at a hospital bedside. That’s not always the case because there are many different avenues and opportunities in nursing. Just be open to those opportunities.”