Distinguished Graduates Archive

The 2020 Distinguished Graduate award winners are: 



Amadae Arevalo is a Clinical Nurse Educator at the University of Washington Medical Center – Northwest in Seattle, WA. Upon graduating from Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2010, she started her nursing career in Critical Care at Jacksonville, FL. Inspired by the Institute of Medicine report The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health Amadae obtained a Masters of Science in Nursing degree with the focus on Leadership in Healthcare Systems at Jacksonville University in 2014. Striving to ensure our ever-changing healthcare system addresses the quality of life of people across the country, Amadae had the opportunity to move to the Pacific Northwest to begin work as a Quality Improvement Clinician.  She collaborated with a multidisciplinary healthcare team to provide the best Evidence Based Practice to patients with Sepsis and had the opportunity to present at the Pacific Northwest Sepsis Conference in 2017 & 2018. After three years, Amadae had a desire to work more closely with nursing staff to develop their knowledge, skills, and attitudes at the bedside. She transitioned to the role as Clinical Nurse Educator where she facilitates several programs which includes the Transition to Practice Program dedicated to onboarding new graduates and experienced nurses new to the Acute Care setting. Amadae has found so much joy and love in the multi-faceted profession of nursing while coming home to her six-year old Chihuahua Winston Cole (named after the Heisman Trophy Winner of 2013, FSU’s own Jameis Winston) and looking forward to her wedding on July 4th to Christopher Breaux. 




Dr. Tonya Schneidereith is a nurse educator, leader, and entrepreneur with over 30 years of experience in health care and academic settings. Her career began as a Pediatric Nurse and as one of the country’s first Pediatric Critical Care Nurse Practitioners. Dr. Schneidereith has led didactic courses in Nursing Research and Pediatric Nursing. Her ongoing program of research has been recognized with an “Innovative Teaching with Technology Award” for her trailblazing use of Google glass to investigate safe medication administration behaviors in prelicensure nursing students. She is currently an Associate Professor at the University of Maryland School of Nursing and a full-time simulation educator in the prestigious Spunt Clinical Simulation Labs. She is co-owner and Chief Executive Officer of the simulation consulting company, SIMPL Simulation, LLC, whose mission is to educate faculty and administration to improve the quality of experiential education. She is recognized throughout the nursing education community, including the National League for Nursing, the International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning (INACSL), the Society for Simulation in Healthcare, and the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties, for spearheading initiatives that advance simulation-based learning. She develops and mentors academic and hospital nursing educators, highlights pediatric health disparities, and advocates for integration of Social Determinants of Health in nursing curricula. Dr. Schneidereith received her BSN from Florida State University, her MSN from the University of Pennsylvania, and her PhD from Johns Hopkins University. She holds certifications as a Pediatric Primary Care (PPCNP-BC) and Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (CPNP-AC), Nurse Educator (CNE), and as one of a select number internationally-designated as an Advanced Simulation Healthcare Educator (CHSE-A). 



The 2018 Distinguished Graduate award winners are: 

Distinguished Graduate – Practitioner Category

Dr. Pamela L. Turner received her BSN from Florida State University in 1975, her MSN in 1977, and her PhD in Nursing Science in 2008 from the University of Florida.  She holds board certifications from the American Nurses Credentialing Center as a Nurse Executive, Advanced and from the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board as a Pediatric Certified Nurse.  Dr. Turner's research focused on career development and factors influencing young students to choose a career in nursing.  Her research program was partially funded by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida to evaluate the Future Gator Nurse program, designed to encourage students to view nursing as an achievable career regardless of gender, race, and ethnicity.  Dr. Turner worked with nurse theorist, Dr. Jean Watson, to assess and measure human caring in nursing.  These research findings are published in J. Watson and J. Nelson's book titled Measuring Caring, International Research on Caritas as Healing.

Dr. Turner's clinical practice has centered on children's healthcare, including nursing education, research, and quality and safety.  Early in her career, she introduced the role of a Clinical Nurse Specialist into a large teaching hospital.  She served as Clinical Faculty for Florida State University and the University of Florida, coordinating nursing students' clinical rotations in a children's hospital.  She has been a peer reviewer for Pediatric Nursing journal and completed the Pediatric Nursing Leadership Institute and Fellowship Program, designed to influence nursing practice through writing and public speaking.  Dr. Turner recently retired as the Quality and Safety Director from Wolfson Children's Hospital in Jacksonville Florida where she introduced Healthcare Performance Improvement, LLC, and methodology to review and classify safety events resulting in harm.  Of note, Dr. Turner was the first female firefighter/paramedic employed (1977) with the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department in Jacksonville, Florida.


Distinguished Graduate - Practitioner Category

Frances Overdyke graduated with a BSN from Florida State University in March 1974. Mrs. Overdyke has worked in the areas of medical-surgical nursing, home health care and health education and was a public health nurse in Florida, North Carolina and Georgia. As a certified medical case manager, she served as the Vice President of the Case Management Society of Georgia.  

Fran spent the last 20 years in school nursing, serving in the largest school system in Georgia, Gwinnett County Public Schools. She was responsible for opening the clinic in a new elementary school and spent two additional years working in an elementary school clinic. She was then hired as a County School Nurse, and served until retirement in June 2018. During that time, she was assigned to provide oversight for as many as 14 schools, including special education from pre-school through high school, and general education students. Mrs. Overdyke has maintained certification by the National Board for Certification of School Nurses since August 2002.

She was active in the Georgia Association of School Nurses and served as Treasurer. During the tenure as Treasurer, she helped convert the billing/membership rolls to a computerized system. She was honored to receive the Georgia Association of School Nurses School Nurse of the Year for 2018.


The 2017 Distinguished Graduate award winners are: 

Distinguished Graduate – Community Service


Mrs. Haskell began her nursing career in pediatric nursing in 2005 after receiving her BSN from Florida State University. Afterwards, she worked a couple of years as a traveling nurse, moving from coast to coast, and finally landing in Denver, Colorado in 2009.  She has worked in most specialties in pediatrics including oncology, medical-surgical, orthopedics, pulmonary, cardiology, PICU, NICU, and the emergency department. Tara joined the Denver College of Nursing in November of 2014 where she has taught pediatric simulation, health assessment, and pediatric didactic classes. She also helped design and teach classes for the online RN to BSN program.

Tara is the Operations Coordinator for the Global Health Perspectives (GHP) program and has led International medical trips to Uganda and India with the GHP students. She coordinates local volunteer events, plans and delivers educational meetings on global health for the students and faculty, manages and interviews students seeking to go on international medical missions, prepares students for international medical internships all over the world, and volunteers locally as well.  

Tara received her Master's degree from Regis in 2014 with a duel focus in Nursing Leadership and Education. Tara graduated in 2005 with her BSN degree from Florida State University. 


Distinguished Graduate - Practitioner Category


Margaret E. Polk ('76), BSN, RN, NCSN has been a school nurse in the Pasco County School District in Florida for 26 years.  Margaret is a member of the National Association of School Nurses and the Florida Association of School Nurses (FASN).  She became a Nationally Certified School Nurse in 2001, and is currently employed as the school nurse at Pasco High School and as district support for emergency management and coordination of district CPR/AED and First Aid trainings.  

Taking care of kids is Margaret's primary goal, and she is skilled at finding resources such as, Pasco County's mobile medical unit, the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, or the dental clinic at nearby R.B. Cox Elementary, so students get the care needed.  Margaret also enjoys making a difference by helping people. One of the ways she is making a difference is by overseeing the school's Assist, Believe and Care (ABC) program.  The ABC program provides aid to students and their families with clothing, school supplies, food and help with rent, and utility bills.

Margaret was recognized by FASN as the 2017 Florida School Nurse of the Year based on her volunteer work coordinating student services teams and advocating for the migrant families in the Dade City community. In addition to her work helping her community, Margaret has volunteered her expertise on district, state, and national committees.



The 2016 Distinguished Graduate Award Winners: 


FSU Distinguighed Grads.jpg

2016 Distinguished Graduate Award recipients pictured with Dean Judith McFetridge-Durdle (center).  Pictured left to right:  Mykal O’Shea (BSN ‘09), Stephen Sapiera (BSN ‘93), Amber Hopcroft (BSN ‘09), Sandra Dunbar (BSN ‘72), and Julie Holt (BSN ‘71).


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.

title-inside title-centered