Distinguished Graduates


The 2021 Distinguished Graduate award winners are: 


Distinguished Graduate – Educator Category
Alicia "Ali" Craig-Rodriguez (DNP '16), DNP, MBA, APRN, FNP-BC


Dr. Ali Craig-Rodriguez is a nationally certified Family Nurse Practitioner who serves as Florida State University College of Nursing’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence and Jonas Nurse Leader Scholar. As a former President and Chief Operating Officer of two nationally recognized clinical research organizations, Dr. Craig-Rodriguez is committed to advancing knowledge in the areas of leadership, clinical excellence, and entrepreneurship in clinical practice. In addition to her faculty role at FSU, Ali has been actively involved in the development of health policy initiatives to improve health care access to all Floridians. 

In her current integrative health practice, Dr. Craig-Rodriguez is dedicated to helping her patients identify the underlying triggers of their chronic illness, and with pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic approaches, assists them in restoring function and achieving optimal health. She is a lifelong learner and her true passion is functional and lifestyle medicine. Ali is a member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, and she is an active student at the School of Applied Functional Medicine where she recently passed her Level II certification exam. In addition to her faculty role at FSU, Ali has a small but thriving functional medicine practice in Tallahassee, serving patients with chronic illnesses, assisting them in restoring function and achieving optimal health. 

Dr. Craig-Rodriguez is a member of several national, state and regional nursing organizations, including Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, the FSU Fellows Society, and the Florida Association of Nurse Practitioners. Ali holds a Bachelor of Arts in English/ Communication from the University of South Florida, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Central Florida, an MBA from the University of South Florida College Of Business, and a Doctorate in Nursing Practice from Florida State University, where she served as FSU’s first Jonas Nurse Leader Scholar.





Distinguished Graduate – Practitioner
Eileen Handberg (BSN '80), PhD ARNP-BC, FAHA, FACC, FPCNA


Dr. Eileen Handberg is a Research Professor of Medicine and Director of the Cardiovascular Clinical Trials Program in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine and Program Co-Director, OneFlorida Clinical Research Consortium.  She has served the University of Florida  as an Institutional Review Board member for 21 years, was a College of Medicine CME Division representative for 20 years and served on Promotion and Tenure.  She is an Adult Nurse Practitioner and has had an outpatient practice, currently practices on the interventional cardiology inpatient service, and manages research patient care.  Dr. Handberg has a 34-year history of work in cardiovascular research, starting as a research coordinator on the NIH SOLVD trial and other industry sponsored research trials in 1986.  She completed her PhD in 1998 with a minor in Exercise Science and soon after joined the faculty at UF as the Director of the Cardiovascular Clinical Trials Program.  She has been the Co-I and PI on federally funded projects since 1986 including NIH funded efforts such as SOLVD, AFFIRM, CABG Patch Trial, ACIP, PIMI, WISE, WHI, BARI-2D, Cardiovascular Cell Therapy Network (I and II), HFACTION as well as hundreds of industry funded trials, and investigator-initiated trials (TIDES, TIDES II, M-HEART I and II, ASIST, INVEST, Q-WISE, R-WISE).  She is the Co-Director of the OneFlorida Clinical Research Consortium and has served as the co-PI of PCORI funded ADAPTABLE trial.  She is the current PI of the WARRIOR Data Coordinating Center, funded by DoD, and the PI for the OneFlorida consortium of sites for the ACTIV4 outpatient trial.  She is a nationally and internationally known speaker and educator serving as the Program Co-Chair for the Core Curriculum for Cardiovascular Clinicians provided by the ACC for the past 11 years.  She has contributed to over 164 peer reviewed manuscripts, 183 abstracts, 3 books, and 8 book chapters.  She serves on 3 editorial boards for cardiology journals, and has peer reviewed for 15 journals.

Professionally she is member of several organizations including the American College of Cardiology, PCNA, AHA and AANP.  She has been very active in the ACC with past service as the first nurse on the Board of Trustees, Chair of the Nurse Education Committee and Cardiovascular Team Section, Membership, Board of Governors, Accreditation, and currently serving on the Governance Committee.  She was the first Nurse to receive FACC (Fellow of the American College of Cardiology) designation.  She is currently an active Board member of PCNA and serves on the Finance and CE Committees and is currently President-Elect.  She belongs to the Council of Cardiovascular Nursing of the AHA.  She has Chaired the writing group for the ANA Scope and Standards for Cardiovascular Nursing twice and was a lead author on the ACC Policy Statement on Team Based Care.

Her research interests have been diverse across the spectrum of ischemic heart disease.  There has been a focus on heart disease in women with the WISE/WARRIOR portfolio of projects; ischemic heart disease with pharmacological treatments as well as stem cell therapy interventions with the NIH funded Cardiovascular Cell Therapy Network and other industry sponsored trials, exercise interventions as part of investigator-initiated projects and NIH funded HFAction trial.  Her expertise is in IHD, Hypertension, Prevention and Exercise combined with the development and operationalization of clinical trials. 



Distinguished Graduate Award Winners Archive


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. o 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
    • 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

    • 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.
    • 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 alumni@nursing.fsu.edu

Submit completed nomination by January 14, 2022 to alumni@nursing.fsu.edu





Distinguished Graduate Award Winners Archive

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