Each spring, the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing is proud to feature an expert in the field of nursing to celebrate commencement. Over the years, we have been honored to include a diverse, brilliant, and influential cast of speakers. It is our hope that these leaders inspire our students, staff, faculty, and broader Loyola community.  

Learn more about each speaker below and their contributions to nursing, embodying so many of our Jesuit values, especially "care for the whole person."

2022: Jacquelyn Taylor, Director of the Center for Research on People of Color

Commencement Speaker photo for 2022 ceremonyLoyola Nursing is proud to welcome Helen F. Petit Professor of Nursing Jacquelyn Taylor, PhD, PNP-BC, RN, FAHA, FAAN, founder and executive director of the Center for Research on People of Color (CRPC) at the Columbia University School of Nursing as the keynote speaker at its Commencement ceremony on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. Established in 2020, the CRPC's vision is to serve as a hub for effective interdisciplinary scholarly work focused on health equity and justice for people and communities of color. The work of the CRPC is rooted in the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assertion that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” The center provides multidisciplinary resources for research and educational programming, with a focus on conducting vital scholarly work to address injustices in health care that affect communities of color.

Taylor's research focuses on the interaction of –omics and social factors that contribute to health disparities for common chronic conditions among underrepresented minority populations in the United States and vulnerable populations abroad. Her R01 “Intergenerational Impact of Genetic and Psychological Factors on Blood Pressure" examined the gene-environment and DNAm-environment interactions of perceived racism and discrimination, parenting stress, and maternal mental health on blood pressure on African American mothers and their young children.

She was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2019, with new members being elected based on the recognition that these scientists have made major contributions to the advancement of the medical sciences, health care and public health. Taylor was also honored with the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) by President Barack Obama in 2017, the highest honor awarded by the federal government to scientists and engineers. With her PECASE project she is examining next-generation sequencing-environment interactions on blood pressure among African Americans. Additionally, Taylor is co-PI and co-director of the administrative core of a NINR-funded P20 Exploratory Center on Precision Health in Diverse Populations. Her long-term goals are to develop nursing interventions to reduce and prevent omic-environment risks associated with health disparities in diverse populations across the lifespan.

2021: Shannon Zenk, Director of National Institute of Nursing

In Spring 2021, Loyola Nursing welcomed leading nurse scientist, Shannon Zenk, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN, director of the National Institutes of Nursing Research (NINR) as keynote Commencement speaker at its virtual ceremony on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. The NINR supports and conducts clinical and basic research that spans and integrates the behavioral and biological sciences and develops the scientific basis for nursing practice. Prior to joining the NINR, Zenk was a Nursing Collegiate Professor in the Department of Population Health Nursing Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) College of Nursing and a fellow at the UIC Institute for Health Research and Policy.

"We are delighted to welcome one of the nation’s leading nursing researchers to Loyola Nursing,” says Loyola Nursing Dean Lorna Finnegan, PhD, RN, FNP, FAAN. “Shannon Zenk’s community-based health disparities research has been pivotal in identifying solutions and policies for greater health equity.  We look forward to hearing her inspiring insights.”

More about Shannon Zenk:

Zenk’s research focuses on social inequities and health with a goal of identifying effective, multi-level approaches to improve health and eliminate racial/ethnic and socioeconomic health disparities. Her research portfolio also includes NIH-supported work into urban food environments, community health solutions and veterans’ health. Through pioneering research on the built environment and food deserts, Zenk and her colleagues helped bring national attention to the problem of inadequate access to healthy foods in low-income and Black neighborhoods.

Zenk was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing in 2013 and was inducted into the International Nurse Researchers Hall of Fame in 2019. She has spent time as a visiting scholar in Rwanda and Australia. She earned her bachelor’s in nursing, magna cum laude, from Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington; her master’s degrees in public health nursing and community health sciences from UIC; and her doctorate in health behavior and health education from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

2021 Commencement Celebration Kit
From Zoom backgrounds to printable yard and window signs, get ready to honor the Class of 2021! LEARN MORE

2020: Linda Burns Bolton, Senior VP & Health System Chief Nursing Executive, Cedars-Sinai

Linda Burnes Bolton, DrPH, RN, FAAN, is Cedars-Sinai's inaugural senior vice president and chief health equity officer. The inaugural holder of the James R. Klinenberg, MD, and Lynn Klinenberg Linkin Chair in Nursing, she was named vice president of nursing in 1991. In June 2019, she retired from the role of senior vice president and chief nurse executive and assumed her current role.

Over a career spanning more than four decades, Burnes Bolton has impacted healthcare policy, clinical practice and patient care nationally while elevating the role and enhancing the professional training of nurses. Her leadership activities have included serving as president of the American Organization of Nurse Executives, the National Black Nurses Association and the American Academy of Nursing. She served as chair of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation National Advisory Committee for Transforming Care at the Bedside, Veteran Affairs Commission on Nursing and vice chair of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Initiative on the Future of Nursing at the Institute of Medicine. She is a trustee of Case Western Reserve University and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Burnes Bolton has received numerous honors. She was named a Living Legend by the American Academy of Nursing in 2016 and received the 2016 TRUST Award from the American Hospital Association for visionary leadership in healthcare. In 2015, she was elected to the National Academy of Medicine and was awarded an honorary doctor of science degree from the State University of New York. She is the recipient of two additional lifetime achievement awards from the National Black Nurses Association and the American Organization for Nurse Leaders.

Burnes Bolton earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Arizona State University and a Master of Science in Nursing and master's and a doctorate degree in public health from UCLA.