Blue Tiger Bio: Ann McSwain
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Ann McSwain’s journey to Lincoln University was an international trek 18 years in the making. Her climb to the top of her profession as dean of the College of Professional Studies was a bumpy ride at times, she says, but oh so worth it!
Born in London to Jamaican parents, McSwain spent 10 years in Jamaica before arriving in Jefferson City as a high school senior. She enrolled at Lincoln as a nursing student, working her way through associate and bachelor’s degrees in nursing.
“As a first-generation college student, I struggled academically,” she says. “Five of my hardest semesters were spent in Elliff Hall as a nursing student — I repeated one semester and struggled with my pre-nursing science courses. It took dedication and focus to pursue my academic goals but the nursing faculty were encouraging. I will be forever grateful to Wanda Hoelscher, Lennette Parks, Lucy Brenner, Lois Jaegers, Darla Douglas, Cindy Stotler, Linda Bickel, Connie Hamacher and Glenda Dahlstrom.”
She got through the program, an achievement made all the sweeter by fond memories of student life at LU, and even the occasional brush with fame. “I remember hanging out in the ‘Blue Room’ being entertained by Joe Torry,” she recalls. “You know, we had three sets of twins on campus while I was a student.” A favorite hangout was the Baptist Student Union, soaking up knowledge and guidance from Chris Jackson. Serving as Ms. International from 1987 to 1988, McSwain got to reach back to her London roots in her friendship with the late Phyllis Von Der Bruegge, LU’s very British international students director. “We all called her Mum,” she says.
With the support and encouragement of the Lincoln faculty, McSwain earned her stripes in 1989. She began her nursing career with St. Mary’s Health Center in Jefferson City, eventually moving into administration at Memorial Hospital before joining Capital Region Medical Center. Along the way, she picked up a master’s degree in nursing from the University of Missouri.
She found her way back to academia when she returned to Lincoln in 2004 as a nursing clinical instructor in critical care and oncology. She liked working with students and a few years later joined the LU faculty as an assistant professor in the School of Nursing.
“Faculty who once were my instructors became my colleagues,” she says. “Once again they took on the roles as coach and mentor as I navigated the higher education setting.”
McSwain served on committees, pursued grants and worked on projects to learn more about the intricacies of the nursing profession, accreditation and higher education. “I wanted to know how I could help our students succeed and impact the future of the nursing profession,” she says. “My humble beginnings definitely help in connecting with our students.”
Promoted through the ranks of assistant to associate and finally full professor, McSwain became department head for the School of Nursing in 2014. Three years later, she was dean of the nursing school, the first Lincoln alumna to serve as dean. Recalling her own academic struggles, she started an academic coaching program for students. McSwain was also instrumental in transitioning the associate degree nursing program to a baccalaureate program and continued to work with the area hospitals through clinical agreements.
“The COVID-19 pandemic challenged my leadership abilities in maintaining the safety of nursing faculty and students both at Fort Leonard Wood and on the main campus,” said McSwain. “With the nursing faculty shortage, I had volunteered to teach the graduating class of the BSN program beginning in January 2020. However, my students went home for Spring Break in March and their lives were turned upside down. Dr. Jennifer McCord, the current Department Head for the School of Nursing and I would check in each morning. Throughout this unprecedented healthcare crisis, we adapted to novel situations and made decisions on the foundation of hope, faith and prayer without access to evidence-based practice.”
When a 2021 reorganization grouped the schools of business, education and nursing into the College of Professional Studies, McSwain assumed her current post as college dean, overseeing the three schools. “While the disciplines within the College of Professional Studies are different, I have the capacity to listen and observe and use the expertise of the faculty and staff as a starting point to encourage dialogue,” she says, focusing on data-driven decision-making as the foundation for quality improvement. “It is definitely a team effort.”
“Returning to Lincoln University meant coming full circle to where it all began for me,” she says. “I believe in our mission and the impact we make in the lives of many. Lincoln University graduates serve locally and globally with Blue Tiger Pride!”