Dr. Tanya Sudia always knew she wanted to go into nursing.
“I just never thought of doing anything else,” she said, recounting that her older sister and an aunt were both nurses. “All of our lives, at some point, are touched by a nurse and the contributions that nursing makes. All ends of the age spectrum, whether it’s primary care, acute care, hospice/palliative care — it’s the nurses that are there for all those critical moments.”
Sudia, dean of the College of Nursing at Augusta University, grew up in Akron, Ohio, and has more than 30 years of experience in higher education, administration, nursing and health care research. She joined AU in January 2020, just weeks before the coronavirus pandemic forced the entire country into lockdown. As one might imagine, starting a new role in a new institution is challenging, but adding a pandemic into the equation might test even the most seasoned leaders. Sudia, however, was up for the task.
The most important consideration, she said, was the safety and well-being of the students, faculty and staff — especially the pre-licensure nursing students engaging in their first clinical experiences taking care of patients. Normally, these experiences would have taken place in person inside a hospital or exam room, but because of COVID restrictions, nearly everything transitioned to virtual or simulated exercises.
“Our faculty were fantastic throughout all that, as well as our students,” said Sudia. “It was interesting because the students were the ones saying, ‘We want to be back. We want to be in clinical. We want to be back in patient care.’”
In addition to her love of nursing, Sudia has a passion for education — a trajectory she attributes to the faculty role models who encouraged her to consider pursuing education when she was a student.
“When I went to Emory for my master’s, at the time, there was a dual track,” she said. “My track was nursing education and clinical nurse specialist, so I was able to do both. From then on, I’ve been engaged in at least some aspect of education.”
Sudia received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Akron. Not only did she earn her dual master’s degree at Emory University, but she also earned a PhD in educational studies there.
As one of four children, Sudia understands the importance of academic scholarships.
“I was fortunate enough to have a scholarship in my undergrad, and then I attended Emory on scholarship for my master’s degree,” she said. She saw firsthand how those scholarships helped to reduce the cost burden of higher education on her parents and family.
Inspired by the generosity of donors who made her scholarships possible, Sudia wanted to give back in her own way. During this year’s Augusta Gives campaign, Sudia contributed $25,000 to establish the Dr. Tanya Sudia Scholarship Endowment, which will go to support Bachelor of Science in Nursing students who demonstrate financial need.
“Both of my scholarships at my prior educational institutions were from strangers, if you will. It’s that gratitude of strangers, individuals we don’t know personally who choose to invest and believe in someone and what they can accomplish. That’s really what I want to do… To give back in that way, to someone who has the potential to make contributions to the nursing profession, but may not be able to because of finances.”