Distinguished Graduates

Distinguished Graduate Awards Program


Purpose:  To recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of College of Nursing alumni for their outstanding contributions to the healthcare of patients, through nursing care, research and their demonstration of the ethics and values of the nursing profession.


Award Categories and Criteria:

  • Educator (University, Community College, and Practice Setting) o Should currently hold or has held a teaching or leadership position with a local, state or national professional educational organization; a post-secondary educational institution; or educational policy-making/review board.
    • Must have published articles, chapters, a book and/or a technical report that reflects scholarship, research or advancement of profession.
    • Must serve or have served as a representative/spokesperson of the profession in policy making with professional or political association at the state or national level. o Demonstrate a strong commitment to students and life-long learning, and enhancing his/her professional growth and that of others.


  • Government and Community Service o Should be actively involved in government and/or community service o Demonstrated exemplary contribution toward improving the quality of healthcare within their community through enhancing the capacity of the healthcare system. § Examples of activities may include: 
  • Exemplary military service; government service at local, state and/or national levels (i.e. county commission, legislative staff); support for broad-based educational or school improvement plans; or community-school partnership activities.
  • Practitioner     
  • Honors outstanding achievements in any area or level of nursing.
  • Demonstrate a strong commitment to the nursing profession and the continued enhancement of his/her professional growth.
  • Have the respect of peers and significant service contributions to the field of nursing at any level in either a practicing, educational or administrative capacity and to the betterment of his/her community.


  • Recent Alumni – Two awards will be presented in the following categories to recognize excellence and innovation in the delivery of healthcare services  o Novice Nurse
    • Currently working, or for the past three years has worked full-time or parttime as a nurse providing quality, compassionate care.  
    • Community involvement and/or recognition 

 o Young Alumni

  • Graduated in the last 4 -10 years
  • Exceptional career foundation or post-graduate academic accomplishments
  • Community involvement and recognition
  • Service to their Community, College of Nursing, and/or Florida State University


Nomination Process:

  • All nominees MUST be graduates of The Florida State University College of Nursing.
  • Nominees cannot be self-nominated.
  • Nominators can complete their nomination by mail, e-mail or fax to the Alumni Outreach Coordinator. Nominators should be prepared to submit the following information:
    • Names and contact information of both nominating and nominated persons o Statement of nomination in 150 words or less, explaining why the nominator feels the person is qualified 
    • Current curriculum vita or resume of nominee o Three references and their contact information and at least one letter of reference. o Any documentation further supporting the nominee’s accomplishments and qualifications for the award (other letters of support, announcement of other recognitions, news articles, etc.)
  • Nominations will be accepted beginning February 1, 2017 and must be submitted by no later than May 1, 2017*.


*Please note: Nominations are kept active for three years.  If your nominee is not selected in the original year nominated, you may update any piece of their file to strengthen the nomination. Three years from the original nomination date, you must update the Letter of Nomination in order to reactivate your distinguished graduate award nomination.


Distinguished Graduate Awards Selection Process:

Winners will be selected by the College of Nursing’s Alumni Council.



  • When the selection process is complete, nominees and nominators are notified of the results. Once all winners are contacted, results will be posted online. 
  • Results can be accessed online or you may send a self-addressed stamped envelope to: 
    • Distinguished Graduate Awards, Florida State University, College of Nursing, 98 Varsity Way, Tallahassee, Florida 32306-4310.



  • Distinguished Graduates will be honored during the fall Homecoming activities and are required to be present in order to receive the award.  Individual winners will be contacted with details regarding the awards ceremony in early fall.
  • For further information, contact the Marilyn McGhee at 850-644-5983 or mmcghee@fsu.edu.


Submit completed nomination by May 1, 2017 to:

FSU College of Nursing
Attn:  Marilyn McGhee
98 Varsity Way
Tallahassee, FL  32306-4310
Fax:  850-644-7660
E-mail: mmcghee@fsu.edu  



The 2016 Distinguished Graduate award winners are: 


Distinguished Graduate Recent Alumni - Practitioner

Amber Hopcroft, BSN, RNC-OB, will receive her DNP with specialization as a certified nurse midwife in December 2016.  She is presently an RNC-OB employed at Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies in Orlando, Florida, and has been working as a labor and delivery nurse at that facility since 2012.  Prior to that, Amber worked in the Labor and Delivery unit at St. Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver, Colorado; that was her first job as a registered nurse after graduating cum laude from Florida State University in May 2009. After working in L&D, and struggling with infertility, Amber discovered that she wanted to take her nursing career to an advanced level as a primary healthcare provider for women.  After receiving her doctoral degree, Amber plans to work full time as a certified nurse-midwife hospitalist with a high-volume OB/GYN practice in Orlando.



Distinguished Graduate Recent Alumni – Community Service

Mykal O’Shea, APRN, FNP-BC is a native Floridian from Clearwater and a graduate of Florida State University.  In 2009, she earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from FSU's College of Nursing and then went on to receive her Master of Science in Nursing (Family Nurse Practitioner specialty with focus on Pediatrics) from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. After graduation as an FNP, Mykal worked as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner in a busy primary pediatric care clinic in Florida. This clinic served a diverse population with varying socioeconomic statuses and ethnicities. This solidified her love and passion for pediatrics and serving those in need. In 2013, she moved to Houston, TX where she joined Legacy Community Health, a large Federally Qualified Health Center providing care for the underserved populations of Houston.  She serves as the Director of an innovative large School Based Health Care program- bringing affordable, high quality primary healthcare access to children in charter schools across Houston. Currently, her program consists of 11 full service clinics staffed by Nurse practitioners across greater Houston.  The clinics remove barriers to care for children and adolescence.



Distinguished Graduate - Practitioner

Julie K. Holt (BSN ’71), ARNP-c in a career spanning over 44 years has clearly demonstrated outstanding achievement in many areas of nursing; medical-surgical nursing, emergency room nursing, emergency room nursing management, internal medicine advanced practice nursing, gynecology advanced practice nursing, urology advanced practice nursing, advanced practice nursing preceptor, medical practice preceptor, community nursing educator, community nursing volunteer, nursing researcher, nursing consultant and professional nursing leader. Julie has been strongly committed to the nursing profession and to the continued enhancement of her own professional growth throughout her distinguished career. While working as an emergency room nurse in the early 70's she was selected for a new federally funded program to create more highly trained nurses. Courses were offered in the Program in Medical Science (PIMS) which later became the FSU College of Medicine. She finished the program and became an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP). She was the first nurse practitioner to be granted privileges at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. She is certified in Adult Primary Care and has taken advantage of numerous opportunities to increase her skills and knowledge...always in the interest of better care for her patients. Julie has clearly earned the respect of her peers and made significant contributions to the field of nursing and to the betterment of her community. She has received the Nursing Excellence Award/Nurse Practitioner and was a founder of the Tallahassee Chapter of the Council of Advanced Practice Nurses, where she has been elected to many leadership roles, including President, by her peers.



Distinguished Graduate - Educator

Sandra B. Dunbar (BSN ’72), PHD, RN, FAAN, FAHA, FPCNA is the Associate Dean of Academic Advancement and the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Cardiovascular Nursing at the Emory University’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing in Atlanta, GA.  As a nurse educator, she has taught in multiple universities across all programs including BSN, leading a Master’s Critical Care Nursing Program, and serving as Director of the PhD in Nursing program at Emory University. She is Director of a T32 Institutional training program for pre and postdoctoral trainees. She has focused her program of research on improving outcomes for complex cardiovascular patients and their families and has conducted NIH, AHA and other funded clinical trials that developed and tested interventions to improve self-care and quality of life and reduce cardiovascular risk, psychosocial distress and health resource use. Her leadership has benefited several professional nursing organizations in that she has served as Chair of the Council of Cardiovascular and Stroke Nursing of the American Heart Association (AHA), chair of the Nursing Council of the Heart Failure Society of America, President of the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, and is on the Board of Directors of the Preventive Cardiovascular Nursing Association (PCNA).  She holds fellowships in the AHA, the American Academy of Nursing, and PCNA.  She has published widely in nursing and interdisciplinary journal and has presented her work at local, national, and international scientific meetings. An avid Seminole supporter, she has served on the National Alumni Board of Directors for Florida State University.



Distinguished Graduate – Government Service


Stephen E. Sapiera (BSN '93), Lt Col, USAF, NC is the Chief Nurse and Group Patient Advocate at the 412th Medical Group, Edwards Air Force Base, California. He directs nursing services for 59 nursing personnel across 3 Squadrons in support of 61,000 patient visits per year. He serves as the subject matter expertise with primary functional authority, responsibility, accountability for nursing practice standards for the Edwards Air Force Base empaneled population. Lt Col Sapiera ensures competency of nursing service personnel and has oversight of Group Education and Training, customer service, TeamSTEPPs, and the Continuous Process Improvement program. Lieutenant Colonel Sapiera is a graduate of the Florida State University School of Nursing and was commissioned through the Reserve Officer Training Corps. He is board certified in ambulatory care nursing and has a Master’s Degree in Military Operational Arts and Science from the Air University. Prior to his current assignment, he was a Senior Program Manager, Education and Training (E&T) Division, at the Air Force Medical Operation Agency at Joint Base San Antonio where he provided E&T direction for 75 Military Treatment Facilities and 4 Aeromedical Evacuation Squadrons. He managed 3 Air Force Medical Service (AFMS) level contracts and was the AFMS Superuser for Mosby’s Skills. Lieutenant Colonel Sapiera has deployed two tours to a Contingency Aeromedical Evacuation Facility in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM and has deployed aboard the US Naval Hospital Ship, USNS Mercy, in support of PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP 2008.


Nominations for 2017 Distinguished Graduate Award recipients will be accepted beginning February 1, 2017.