Our Distinguished Graduates Award Program serves 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.
- 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.
- Demonstrate a strong commitment to students and life-long learning, and enhancing his/her professional growth and that of others.
- Should be actively involved in government and/or community service
- 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.
- 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.
Two awards will be presented in the following categories to recognize excellence and innovation in the delivery of healthcare services
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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 October 1, 2021 and must be submitted by no later than January 14, 2022*.
*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. Members of the Alumni Council are not
eligible to be nominated for or receive the Distinguished Graduate Award.
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 Award recipients will be contacted with details regarding the ceremony. For further information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Submit completed nomination by January 14, 2022 to email@example.com
2022 Distinguished Graduate Award Winners
Distinguished Graduate- Practitioner
Lisa Balskus, BSN, RN, PCCN
Lisa Balskus, class of 84, is a proud member of the FSU Alumni Association. She currently serves as a PACU Registered Nurse at Mayo Clinic Hospital, Jacksonville Florida, where she has worked since 2018 and throughout the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. During her career, she has excelled in healthcare, business, and charitable work. As a woman business owner from 1988 to 1995, she started a staff-relief and homecare nursing agency which grew to one of North Florida’s largest agencies before being acquired. For over 36-years, Lisa served as a military spouse, participating in numerous programs supporting veterans and families of military members. She was a charter and pioneer committee member of the Florida National Guard Family Readiness Program and an active member of the Quilt of Honor Program, delivering quilts of thanks, solace, and remembrance to those who serve in harm’s way to protect and defend our lives and freedoms. Her role in supporting her husband during his command years with the Florida Air National Guard was recognized by the Governor of Florida. She was awarded the Military Spouses Medal of Courage and the Florida Distinguished Service Medal in 2015. Following this, their assignment took them to Washington DC where Lisa worked at MedStar Georgetown while continuing her outreach honoring the Veterans.
Distinguished Graduate- Government and Community Services
Rita Smith (MSN '90), DNP, MPH, APRN, NP-C
Dr. Rita Smith began her public health dream at the Gadsden County Health Department in 1987. In 1988, she began the FSU School of Nursing’s NP program to become a family nurse practitioner in public health then graduated as one of two NPs first to finish the FSU MSN program. Later that year, Dr. Rita was offered a position in private practice and spent the next 25 years implementing public health principles into primary care. In 2017, she returned to public health at two DOH health departments but was promoted to the DOH Statewide Nursing Director in February 2020. Two weeks later she was activated into the State Emergency Operation Center for the COVID response where she assisted the State Surgeon General and the Executive Management Team in daily debriefings, was the subject matter expert in the statewide COVID testing and vaccination efforts as well as vetted PPE and lab supplies and hospital requests for ventilators, and managed the COVID testing of lawmakers at the Capital and dignitaries at the SpaceX Launch in May 2020. Amid hurricane Michael, a wedding, and the pandemic, she graduated from FSU with her MPH in 2021. Career highlights include co-leading with FNA the Nursing Action Coalition of Florida, being recognized on the Florida Senate floor, obtaining her DNP from UAB, managing the first Florida school-based clinic, and being CEO of one of the first NP owned and operated primary care offices in the state. On March 4th 2022, she brought public health principles to the Department of Juvenile Justice where she serves as Chief Medical Officer.