Rita Clifford, R.M.; Ph.D.
Honors, achievements, and special recognition:
- Distinguished Alumus Award, KU Nurses Alumni Association – 1992
- Honorary Recognition, the highest award from Kansas State Nurses Association - 2007
- Hero of Health Care, Lifetime Achievement - Ingraham’s Magazine – 2008
- Celebration of Women, The Women’s Foundation of Kansas City – 2011
How I became interested in my field:
My area of expertise is student affairs in a professional school. I became interested in this area in the late 1960s when I was the pre-nursing advisor on the Lawrence campus. I was already a nursing faculty member and I saw that there were needs of students (in the professional schools) that were not being met in an organized fashion. In the case of the nursing school students, they were forced to leave the KU campus at the end of the sophomore year because of the physical location of the nursing school in Kansas City. This transition was difficult for most and the support they received in Kansas City was not as strong as I felt that it could be. That was the beginning of my 40+ years of activity in student affairs.
An honor, achievement or accomplishment that is most meaningful to me and why:
I believe that my most meaningful accomplishment is the establishment of a full service Student Affairs Office in the School of Nursing in 1980. This office started as a two person office (me and a secretary). Today it is an office with 6 support staff, 3 professional advisors/recruiters and an Associate Dean. It serves the needs of about 750 nursing students from their initial contact with the School through application, admission, enrollment, advising and graduation. It serves baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral students. This is the culmination of my dream for organized and comprehensive services for nursing students.
Someone who has been a role model for me and why:
I have been very fortunate to have three significant role models during my career. Margery Duffy, RN, PhD played an important role in my early career. She was one of the first PhD educated nurses that I knew personally. She was a colleague and a mentor and she encouraged me to attain a PhD degree myself, when it was not the norm for nurses in academia. Then in my later career I had the wonderful advantage to work with two marvelous Deans, Eleanor Sullivan, RN, PhD and Karen Miller RN, PhD, both strong leaders who have great abilities to envision the preferred future and to lead, push and encourage those around them to attain that future.
Someone who has been influential or had a significant impact on my life:
My mother was a very strong woman, high school educated, who worked hard all her life and supported her children in attaining their aspirations. In spite of several life tragedies and challenges she remained strong and resolute. Among these challenges was being widowed twice (her first husband and then my father), the death of a toddler daughter during the first years of her marriage to my father and the birth of a developmentally disabled daughter whom she nurtured and supported until Mother’s death when my sister was 36 years old. She treasured the skills and attributes of all three of her living children, encouraging them to achieve at their highest levels.
My husband has also been a source of strong support, always believing in me and helping me in any way possible. He has “volunteered” countless hours to School of Nursing activities over the years, becoming an important part of the success of these activities.
My favorite KU memory:
I have worked at KU School of Nursing, in various positions, since 1964. There are too many memories to identify only one. I have been privileged to work with wonderful colleagues and thousands of prospective and actual nursing students. Everywhere I go I encounter former students who always share their memories with me.
An important life lesson I have learned:
Be optimistic! Breathe……there is almost nothing that can’t be fixed.
If I had a sister just entering college, I would want her to know…
Enjoy your time there. Keep your mind open to learning, make friends and have new experiences.
A favorite quote or saying that is meaningful to me and why:
Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple– Dr Seuss
Again, my innate optimism comes through. Although I sometimes worry, I usually find ways to find a positive solution. I also like Michael J Fox’s statement “’No’ doesn’t move you forward.”