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Ona Riggin


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Ona Riggin
Series Title:
USF 50th (2006) anniversary oral history project
Physical Description:
1 sound file (43 min.) : digital, MPEG4 file + ;
Riggin, Ona
Greenberg, Yael V
University of South Florida Libraries -- Florida Studies Center. -- Oral History Program
University of South Florida -- Tampa Library
University of South Florida Tampa Library
Place of Publication:
Tampa, Fla
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Psychiatric nursing   ( lcsh )
Oral history   ( local )
Online audio   ( local )
Oral history.   ( local )
Online audio.   ( local )
interview   ( marcgt )


Ona Riggin, Emeritus and Distinguished Professor at the University of South Florida, discusses the development and early days of USF's College of Nursing. Dr. Riggin talks about the nature of the Nursing School and courses, what the postgraduate Nursing Program was like in the late 1970s and 1980s, and speaks on the Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing Program. In addition, Dr. Riggin discusses current challenges the College of Nursing faces.
Interview conducted August 15, 2003.
System Details:
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
System Details:
Streaming audio.
Statement of Responsibility:
interviewed by Yael V. Greenberg.

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University of South Florida Library
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University of South Florida
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 029177998
oclc - 265378772
usfldc doi - U23-00116
usfldc handle - u23.116
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COPYRIGHT NOTICE This Oral History is copyrighted by the University of South Florida Libraries Oral History Program on behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of South Florida. Copyright, 200 8 University of South Florida. All rights, reserved. T his oral history may be used for research, instruction, and private study under the provisions of the Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of the United States Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section 107), which allows limited use of copyrighted materials under certain conditions. Fair Use limits the amount of material that may be used. For all other permissions and requests, contact the UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA LIBRARIES ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at the University of South Florida, 4202 E. Fowler Avenue, LIB 122, Tampa, FL 33620.


1 USF Florida Studies Center Oral History Program USF 50 th History Anniversary Project Narrator: Dr. Ona Riggin Interviewer: Yael V. Greenberg Current Position: Emeritus and Location of Interview: Tampa Distinguished Professor Campus Libra ry Date of Interview: August 15, 2003 Abstractor: Mary E. Yeary Editor: Danielle E. Riley Final Editor: Jared G. Toney Date of Edit: October 24, 2003 TOPICS OF DISCUSSION Year of arrival Dr. Riggin came to USF in1977 as a professor and director of s pecial projects in the College of Nursing. During her career Dr. Riggin chaired the graduate council, research council, and honor and awards council. Circumstances that brought Dr. Riggin to USF She arrived in the fall of 1977. She taught at UT. Her husband, Dr. John Riggin, accepted the position of chief of staff at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital. They moved to Tampa and she accepted the position at the College of Nursing. What did the USF campus look like in 1977? "It was a skeleton of what it is today." When Dr. Riggin first arrived, she began working at the Health Sciences Center. At that point the Health Sciences Center consisted of the College of Nursing building, the College of Medicine building, and the library. "Since that time, man y buildings have been added there." When and how did the College of Nursing begin? "The College of Nursing has a very interesting history." In 1965 the legislature approved funds and legislation for the establishment of the College of Nursing. In 1968 the first dean, Dr. Alice Keefe, was appointed. She served for less than a year. Then Gwendoline MacDonald was appointed dean in 1969. In 1970 she employed nine charter faculty. In 1973 they admitted the first class of bachelor students, which consist ed of fifty students. The first class graduated in 1975. In 1977 the College of Nursing added R.N. to the B.S. program. "It [College of Nursing] had a rapid transition from the time money was appropriated, the proposal for the college was written, and [ it] graduated the first class." Where was the College of Nursing first located? The College of Nursing started in trailers. They did not move into a building until 1975. For the first two years, students were in trailers.


2 Courses students take before entering the nursing program Nursing is an upper division baccalaureate degree. Students spend the first two years of college either on a four year campus or an associate degree or two year campus. In their first two years, students take courses that f ulfill requirements for the typical undergraduate student. Also, in the first two years students take base courses in order to begin professional work. After being admitted into the College of Nursing Once they are admitted to the College of Nursing, t hey have a combination of theory and clinical work. Usually they serve in the clinical area for fifteen to twenty hours a week. "It is a very rigorous curriculum because they have a number of theory courses, which are really demanding. They have to make the transition from being a lay person to being a professional person. It is a tall order." Why was Dr. Riggin hired? They needed someone who could counsel and advise students. They also needed someone who was qualified and could do a feasibility study for the Master of Science degree program. They needed someone who could write the proposal, which Dr. Riggin did. Diversity of students In the early days, Dr. Riggins says nursing was predominantly a female major. However, they did have some men. T hey had black students. In the master's program, there was less diversity. The first class of master's students was entirely white. In the second class there was one male. "Since that time, we have a pretty good mix of male, black, Hispanic, and white students." They have had some Asian students as well. College of Medicine and the College of Nursing's relationship They were separate institutions. However, there was a cooperative relationship between the College of Nursing and the College of Medicin e. For example, in the master's program, a number of the chairs and faculty from the College of Medicine taught courses in the early nursing master's program. Early faculty members Dr. Imogine King was an early faculty member in the College of Nursing. She was well known for theory development. She taught research courses and carried a heavy thesis load. Faculty members carry a heavy thesis load Dr. Riggin says they all carried a heavy thesis load because in the early days of the program students w ere required to do a thesis. They served on ten or more thesis committees. She chaired fifty thesis committees. Early challenges of the College of Nursing She says one of the major challenges was accruing a sufficient number of faculty. That was a mult i faceted problem because in the early days there were not many prepared


3 nurse educators in the country. Many times seasoned people are not eager to come to a relatively new program, which the program at USF was at the time. Funding, which continues to b e a problem, was a problem at the time. Sometimes they received applicants from people they could employ but did not have the funds to employ them. Nationally, in order to maintain accreditation, one really had to have faculty who were prepared at the do ctorate level. From 1980 to 1985, there were thirteen faculty members who were working on doctoral degrees, and who were part time faculty. "It was a fairly difficult period of time." How did the College of Nursing attract faculty? There were many way s that happened. One, Gwendoline MacDonald had been the president of the National League for Nursing. That position enabled her to have had wide exposure nationally. "Also, as one brings on more faculty you know people in your specialty area and you beg in to tell them about all of the advantages here." She says as they talked about USF and the College of Nursing they became so enthusiastic that the potential faculty members also became enthusiastic. Dr. Riggin says some of the people who came for an in terview just fell in love with the college, the faculty, and the university. How was the College of Nursing funded in the early days? Within a university there is the budget for the main campus. Health sciences had its own budget. In the early days th e vice president for health sciences was also the dean of the College of Medicine. Funding was really negotiated between that individual and the dean of the College of Nursing. Dr. Riggin says they went through a period of time with only a vice president for health sciences and a separate dean for the College of Medicine. She says about ten years ago it again reversed. Now there is a vice president for health sciences who is also the dean of the College of Medicine. Since that time, they have added the College of Public Health, so it has become a much more collaborative operation within the Health Sciences then when the two colleges, of nursing and medicine, dealt one on one with each other. USF support of the College of Nursing She says the USF comm unity was quite supportive. She served on numerous committees on the main campus. Everyone on campus was really very open and eager to have us as a part of the government structure. Dr. Riggin becomes assistant dean for graduate education and research. The Master of Science degree program begins The BOR approved the proposal in 1979. The program is a master's of science degree with a major in nursing. The College of Nursing admitted the first class of students, consisting of sixteen students, in 1980 In the beginning, there were three faculty members that began the master's program.


4 Specialty areas added to the master's program When Dr. Riggin wrote the proposal, she had a lot of consultation. The proposal contained only one focus area because o f restricted faculty and funding. Based on the feasibility study the area of focus needed to be adult health nursing. Then the College of Nursing was able to add concentrations, or specialty areas, to the curriculum without having to get state graduate c ouncil or the BOR's permission. In 1982 the College of Nursing added the gerontological program to the master's degree. This new addition was the result of federal funding from the department of advanced nurse training. In 1984 they added the specialty area in psychiatric mental health nursing. In 1986 they added community health nursing and oncology nursing. In 1988 they added a family health nursing concentration, which was under a nurse training grant from the federal government. Why was it impor tant for the College of Nursing to have a M.S. degree? Dr. Riggin says specialized knowledge becomes very important. "You need individuals who have specialty training. It's somewhat akin to the specialty areas in medicine. That's why it was necessary to add the various concentrations. Also, you have baccalaureate graduates who have been working in the field and are particularly interested in these different areas." One reason why students entered the master's program at USF USF had the only master's program in nursing in the area. UF and UM had master's programs as well. The number of students increases in the master's program In 1980 the College of Nursing admitted sixteen students into the master's program. In 1983, when the National League acc redited the program for nursing, they had 140 students. She became chairperson for the graduate program in psychiatric mental health nursing. The psychiatric mental health nursing program becomes well known nationally Her specialty is psychiatric ment al health nursing. Since the program had grown so rapidly they needed someone to administer that particular concentration and to help it develop, because nationally, a very small percent of nurses enter psychiatric mental health nursing. She chaired the program from then until she retired. It became one of the better known psych mental health programs in the country. At one time, the program had more students than some of the large universities. Also, the Air Force and the Navy approved the program. Bo th branches of the armed forces sent students to USF to complete their master's degrees. The difference between the curriculum of the baccalaureate degree program and the master's degree program At the baccalaureate level, the curriculum is a prescribed curriculum. A student enters the program and goes through the entire program in a lock step manner, which is not different from many professional programs. The master's program is quite different.


5 Students do have a core curriculum, which contains cour se on theory, research, patho physiology, pharmacology, and physical assessment. After students complete the core courses they have prescribed courses in terms of a student's specialty. Master's students also have the option to take electives in other sp ecialties or in the university. They have a number of students who will do a dual major. For example, in psychiatric mental health nursing, a number of students also complete the family health or adult health concentrations. The number of credits in t he master's program When the master's degree program first began, it was a forty eight credit program. Then, due to trends in the country and changes in the university, they reduced the program to thirty six credits. However, everyone soon realized that thirty six credits were not enough. Today, the program is around forty four or forty five credits. Ph.D. program in nursing In 1970 the College of Nursing started the Ph.D. program in nursing. The college admitted seven students in the first year. Si nce that time, the college continues to admit seven or eight students each year. In 2001 the college started the baccalaureate to Ph.D. program. At the time, four students were admitted to the program. Dr. Riggin says this program admits fewer students because each student receives financial support throughout their doctoral study. Each student receives 20,000 dollars a year. They are full time, either clinically or class wise. "It is a very rigorous schedule that they have. It is a wonderful way to earn a doctoral degree especially if you're moving from the baccalaureate level into the Ph.D. level." In 1990 she became the director for the development grant in alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. The USF College of Nursing focuses on helping people who have substance abuse problems The USF College of Nursing was one of seven nursing colleges in the entire country to receive money for the development grant in alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. The major purpose of the grant was to prepare faculty in the area of substance abuse and other drugs. Faculty worked with substance abuse specialists in the local area. Through research focuses, each faculty member developed a specialty area in substance abuse. Two faculty members worked in the area of pediat rics; one worked in the area of gerontological nursing; two worked in the area of adult health, and two worked in the area of maternal child. Present challenges for the College of Nursing "The major challenge is prepared faculty shortages. This is a dire problem throughout the country." Dean of the College of Nursing Dr. Patricia Burns was appointed dean in 1997. "She is a very innovative dean who has done many things to advance the College of Nursing." Currently, Dr. Burns is focusing


6 on employing a number of master's degree graduates who work primarily with the undergraduate students in clinical areas. They also serve some graduate students. What was the early vision of the College of Nursing, and has it changed? "The vision was always to prepare top notch nurse graduates at the various levels. That was always the vision." Dr. Riggin says the vision has changed through curriculum and educational changes. For example, in 2001 the college established five clinical cooperatives, a cross between di ploma nursing and baccalaureate nursing. Once a student is admitted to the College of Nursing, he or she can elect a clinical hospital or group to be involved with for the entire program. One of the clinical cooperatives is a combination of the Veterans Administration Hospital, the Shriners Hospital, and the Moffitt Cancer Center. A student remains with the same faculty and clinical people during that time. Capping of undergraduate nursing students The College of Nursing was always capped at sixty ba ccalaureate students. The reason for the initial cap was a legislative action applicable to all baccalaureate programs in nursing in Florida. In 2001, that was lifted and immediately the college started admitting sixty students two times a year. The Col lege of Nursing admits 120 students each year. Dr. Riggin says the reason for the lifting of the cap is to help meet the severe nursing that exists in the U.S. Where are nursing students from? Predominantly, nursing students are from the state of Flori da. Master's students are from around the country. "We do give priority to Florida students." If out of state students meet the criteria for admission into the master's program they are accepted. The number of undergraduate applicants In 2003 there wer e 500 applicants for the baccalaureate program. The college cut off the admission GPA to 3.4. Where does Dr. Riggin see the College of Nursing in ten years? She sees it continuing to grow. She also sees new buildings for the College of Nursing. A ne w College of Nursing building will provide more space for classrooms and research In September of 2003, there will be a groundbreaking for the new College of Nursing building. The new building will provide additional classroom space, and most importantly, it will prove space for research. At the present time, faculty do not have space for research in the current building. "We are very crowded." Research becomes more important to the College of Nursing In 1990 the dean at the time, Judith A. Plawicki, established the Office of Research. Dr. Riggin says the establishment of the Office of Research was really the first time the College of Nursing providing support to faculty members to conduct research. Since Dr. Burns has become dean, the college now h as the Center for Research, and an associate dean for doctoral education in research. The college improved research funding by


7 eighty three percent. "It [research] is a very important part of the growth of the college." She says nationally there is an e mphasis on prepared doctoral faculty doing research. Specific research in the College of Nursing Substance abuse is one area where a good amount of research has occurred. Dr. Theresa Beckie just received a major grant in the area of cardiovascular nur sing, with an emphasis on the rehabilitation of women who have had cardiac problems. Dr. Evans, the associate dean for research, has a very strong research base in children in adolescence. She has done a good amount of service type research. Other facul ty members in the college are engaged in oncology research. These faculty members especially focus on breast cancer research. Susan McMillan is the college's big oncology researcher. Dr. Burn's vision of the College of Nursing Dr. Riggin says Dr. Burn's vision "is once of excellence." "She looks at producing the very best nurses at each of the levels. She is very involved in the advancement of the college in every area." The College of Health Science, the College of Nursing, and the College of Medicin e work together Dr. Daugherty was appointed the vice president for health sciences around 2000. One of his major missions has been to bring the three colleges together, and get them to worth together and work with the various health institutes in the comm unity as well as with USF. Dr. Riggin says there have been numerous meetings and committees to look at ways this can occur. She says now more than every there is a strong emphasis of everyone working together. She thinks the colleges are moving back to things they did in the early days such as medical and nursing students learning together, and nursing faculty teaching some of the medical classes and vice a versa. What is Dr. Riggin most proud of in her history at USF? She is very proud of the universit y and the College of Nursing. "As far as the college is concerned, I am most proud of the advances that have been made in the college in terms of increasing the number of programs." Last words that Dr. Riggin would like to leave behind about USF "I wou ld tell them it's [USF] a great place to work. I think there are wonderful opportunities here." She says there are "very collegial relationships both on the main campus and on the health science campus. Also, USF provides "a very supportive atmosphere a nd environment." "You are able to really help yourself advanced and meet your own expectations and then to work cooperatively to help the [different] colleges develop." End of Interview

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Riggin, Ona.
Ona Riggin
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Yael V. Greenberg.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (43 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 expanded summary (digital, PDF file)
USF 50th (2006) anniversary oral history project
Interview conducted August 15, 2003.
Ona Riggin, Emeritus and Distinguished Professor at the University of South Florida, discusses the development and early days of USF's College of Nursing. Dr. Riggin talks about the nature of the Nursing School and courses, what the postgraduate Nursing Program was like in the late 1970s and 1980s, and speaks on the Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing Program. In addition, Dr. Riggin discusses current challenges the College of Nursing faces.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Streaming audio.
Riggin, Ona.
2 610
University of South Florida.
University of South Florida.
College of Nursing.
Psychiatric nursing.
7 655
Oral history.
Online audio.
Greenberg, Yael V.
University of South Florida Libraries.
Florida Studies Center.
Oral History Program.
University of South Florida.
Tampa Library.
4 856