Owens, Clinical Assistant Professor, Recognized by A&M System for Impact on Diversity and Health Care

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Instrumental to the continued growth of diversity awareness and education in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences (CONHS), Dr. Sherdeana Owens, Clinical Assistant Professor and Health Sciences Coordinator at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, was selected to represent the Island University at the first-ever Chancellor’s Summit on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, held in February at Texas A&M University-Commerce. At the summit, Owens and others representing A&M System campuses participated in focus groups to facilitate the creation of System-wide programming around the topic of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“A lot of the divisiveness we see in society has to do with people not being familiar with one another, not having the chance to work together and fearing the unknown. Sometimes you have to codify behavior, but it is better to change minds and hearts – this does not just happen by accident,” said Owens. “I am so excited that we have a summit like this to start those conversations and address the hard topics.”

At the summit’s banquet, Owens was presented an award medallion from Dr. James Hallmark, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Texas A&M System, and Dr. Mark Rudin, President of A&M-Commerce. Owens was nominated for the award by A&M-Corpus Christi President Kelly M. Miller and A&M-Corpus Christi Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Clarenda Phillips.

“Dr. Owens is an asset to TAMU-CC and the Coastal Bend because she promotes cross-cultural understanding, respect, and inclusion of diverse groups,” said Phillips. “Furthermore, she gets students involved in doing equity work so that they learn how to build the bridges necessary to improve the quality of life of marginalized individuals and groups.”

A Vietnam Era veteran, Owens has worked in various settings implementing new methods and programs that help those unable to access health resources such as dental care – an area of expertise in research for Owens, who is also a retired dentist. Owens currently teaches classes within the Health Sciences program. She is also the faculty advisor of the Health Science Association (HSA), a student group which provides knowledge and professional skills which are essential for future healthcare professionals. With assistance from Owens, HSA hosted an event in fall 2019 called “Dawn of a New Day: Celebrating the Oneness of Humanity,” where students were educated about the cultural, ethnic, religious, and political diversity that they will encounter in their future careers, and the role that effective communication plays in the understanding of diverse groups.

“When we look at campus culture, the number one thing I think about is the signs you see around campus that say, ‘This is an Island for Everyone,’ that’s our culture and that’s what I want our students to take away,” said Owens. “I always knew our campus was doing amazing things when it came to providing campus conversations in the area of diversity and exposing students to these topics. But – I don’t think I appreciated it as much until I met with other people and saw what they weren’t doing; so I truly commend the staff, faculty and leadership who are making these things happen at the Island University.”

Owens leads by example, as she works with several nonprofit organizations throughout the Coastal Bend and the State of Texas, pushing for the betterment of the community regarding health care and education. Through her many activities and community partners, she has opened opportunities to Island University nursing and health sciences students for internships, professional development, and service.

“I’ve always felt that you can’t be on the inside and watch, you’ve got to be out there working on things,” said Owens. “Our students are not just here to learn how to be a good nurse or a good healthcare administrator, they’re here to learn to be good people, good leaders, and good neighbors. That’s what we need them to be when they’re working in health care.”

After 10 years with the Island University and many successes and accolades, Owens says her recent recognition still came as a surprise.

“I was so shocked,” said Owens. “First of all, you do things because they are important to you, and you don’t really care if anybody’s watching. But then when you find out they really are watching, it’s a nice surprise. I am honored by this award.”