Diane Billings, Centennial Endowed Professorship in Innovations in Nursing Education

By Jill Jansen

As a new nurse working in public health in the late 1960s, Diane Billings was asked to teach a course for new mothers on bottle feeding.

“I enjoyed it so much—preparing the material and talking with the students; it was just a fabulous experience for me,” she recalls.

In the end, that first course proved to be the seminal experience that launched Billings’ career as an internationally recognized expert in nursing education. Joining IU School of Nursing as an assistant professor in 1972, Billings taught in the ASN, BSN, MSN and PhD programs. She also served as the IU systemwide BSN program curriculum coordinator/evaluator in the mid-1980s. When she retired in 2006, she was associate dean for teaching, learning and information resources. At the height of the digital age, she not only led the school’s technological transformation, but also was one of the architects of IUSON’s nursing education program, which has evolved into one of the leading programs of its kind in the nation.

“I always felt very fortunate to work for IU School of Nursing because the school and the campus valued teaching—and that’s what I valued as well,” says Billings, who along with IU School of Nursing colleague Judith Halstead co-authored the groundbreaking “Teaching in Nursing: A Guide for Faculty,” which was first published in 1998. “And because of my opportunities with the school, I was able to reach a broader audience and play a part in helping prepare nurses to be good educators.”

In gratitude to the school and to honor the school’s 100-year history, Billings established the Centennial Endowed Professorship in Innovations in Nursing Education. The holder of the professorship will conduct research focused on testing pedagogical innovations and developing best practices for educating nurses.

“The title has innovations in it because that’s what IU School of Nursing has been known for in nursing education,” Billings says. “Nurses today are working in an increasingly complex environment, and it’ll be up to those committed to the science of nursing education to take it to the next step and build on what IU School of Nursing has been doing so well for many years.”

Endowed chairs and professorships are critical to attracting and retaining stellar faculty at IU School of Nursing who are leaders in their field.

“If you were to ask people in our profession who the leaders are in nursing education, I think at least half of the people who would be named have their roots at IU School of Nursing,” Billings says. “The professorship helps ensure the school’s leadership in nursing education will continue.”

In addition to the professorship, Billings and her late husband, Richard, have funded a faculty research grant, a scholarship for doctoral students interested in nursing education, and a fellowship for newly appointed faculty that provides seed funding for research.