Laura J. Fero, PhD, MSN, RN

Dean of Nursing, School of Nursing, St. Catherine University

What do you do in your current role?

I have been with St. Catherine University since June of 2019 and provide leadership across all programs and degree levels within the School of Nursing. My role focuses on setting a strategy for sustainable growth of the high-quality, outcome-driven standards for which St. Kate’s nursing programs are known while maintaining a liberal arts core. I oversee all operational aspects of delivery, including the simulation center, instructional design, clinical education and placement, budgeting, and accreditation. I also manage grant funding provided through foundational work. My research interests and passions include leadership, simulation-based performance, and the use of critical thinking in evidence-based research for quality improvements. Prior to my academic career, I held numerous leadership positions in the care delivery sector.

When and why did you join the TRUST?

I have been a TRUST member since 2019. I joined to network and become familiar with leaders and initiatives happening in Minnesota. I was new to the area, and it has helped me identify accomplished women in our field to facilitate movement forward as a health care industry.

Do you have a favorite TRUST memory so far?

The most impactful memory is the virtual annual meeting in December 2020. Kara Richardson Whitely was the keynote, and she talked about overcoming obstacles, fear and staying persistent in one’s goals. Her journey was an emotional, physical and spiritual one, and it inspired me during the COVID pandemic to stay focused and lead forward even with challenges.

How has a mentor helped you the most?

I had an amazing mentor while serving as a leader within the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centers and as a doctoral candidate. Gail Wolf served as the Corporate Chief Nursing Officer for the UPMC System and as a Clinical Professor for Pitt. She mentored me on moving teams forward through systemic change and purposefully listening to transform an environment. I will forever be grateful for her influence.

What is the best career advice you’ve received?

The best career advice I have received is to make a three-year personal and professional plan. This timeframe allows you to make a significant impact, get teams to move in a collaborative direction, and celebrate accomplishments. Another piece of advice I received is to always walk through the open doors as you never know what blessings may await you.

What support do you need now to evolve your development as a leader?

Academic institutions currently face many challenges given the number of nurses we need and the lack of faculty and resources to attain that goal. We need to put leadership teams together and create stronger relationships between the health care delivery sector and academics. I would like further development in inter-professional work and resource sharing models.

How do you support other women in their leadership journey?

I believe every leader must develop a strategy for sustainability and succession planning. It is important to identify emerging leaders and facilitate their talent. I am working on that with our academic leadership group, and as a women’s institution which empowers leadership and influence, it is extremely important.

How do you cope with the demanding aspects of your career?

Maintaining an attitude of gratefulness and acceptance has been crucial. It is an awareness of my limits and those around me. Given the immense pressure on women at home and in their professional environment during the pandemic, we need an open and safe forum to talk about issues. It has undoubtedly been helpful during this challenging time.

How do you maintain or improve your health and well-being?

I love to take long walks and bike. One of my favorite ways to relax and regroup is to sit by the water. I grew up on a lake, and it is still the most peaceful place to put things into perspective.

Any words of wisdom you live by?

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” – Nelson Mandela