Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Gina Oliver

Dr. Oliver, one of Mizzou Nursing's most prominent educators, has devoted her career to educating future nurse educators.

Dr. Oliver talks with graduate students during their June 2023 On Campus Days.

There are always people in life that effect positive change. These are the people that devote everything to moving the future forward. It has been said that becoming a great educator means putting yourself aside; trading your own glory for your students, to be selfless and humble to create greatness. It’s rare to find the perfect symbiotic balance of educational expertise and selfless humility. In Gina Oliver, the Sinclair School of Nursing counts itself lucky to find that perfect balance.

Gina has been teaching nursing education for 36 years. She has covered associate diploma, baccalaureate, masters, and doctoral level teaching. She has seen education trends go from textbook to digital, classrooms from 300 students to completely online, and the transition technology has brought to education. Despite the ever-changing environment of space and student, one thing has always remained, her devotion to mentoring students.

If you sit to talk with Gina long, her humility comes to full display. It’s not uncommon for Gina to tell you that she isn’t interesting, that there is little to write about. It is clear to see that her life has revolved around her career and if you were to add up the number of students she has reached, in and out of the classroom, it would be an incredible number. How does one not only move, but also advance the art of educating the educator? The answer is a painstakingly exhausting level of devotion to the craft. It’s one day at a time, it’s being flexible and spending 60-70 hours a week for the betterment of others. This is a life worth being interested in. This has been Gina Oliver’s life.

Gina has been a 19-year Student Research Advising committee member, 12-year Student Mentor Teaching Practica, is the MS(N) Educator Area Coordinator, and is dually certified as a nurse practitioner and nurse educator with a PhD in Nursing with an emphasis in higher education, not to mention more than $877,000 in grant funding. Her list of accomplishments is a grand one. She continues to plan and advance herself which is exactly what she requires of her students. “Take the time to step back and plan your teaching program for the next 15 years,.” She advises. “I make them answer where they want to be and how they plan to get there.” She stresses the importance of finding work/life balance and admits she hasn’t always allowed herself play time, but she is seeking it more now.

Life for Gina hasn’t always taken a linear path through education; in a painful and formative moment, right before the pandemic hit, Gina lost her husband. She was in a low place as many of us were during that time. She found herself searching, and like many of her students, she was looking for answers. She found those answers in a seemingly very unlikely place, K-pop music. This Korean indie pop music is the kind that you’d expect pumping out of LA nightclubs, not necessarily relaxation music, but the energy and the message spoke to Gina. More specifically, the band BTS. “I liked their message and their philosophy—their songs are about themselves so they can relate to kids their age, they sing about loving yourself,” Gina explains. “There are 7 billion people in the world and 7 billion stars shining in the sky, and when you aren’t shining bright, there are people out there to shine the way for you,” are the lyrics of one of her favorite songs. “Their message is about teaching people how to learn to feel better by reaching them through music,” Gina explains.

If you ask Gina if she still follows the 15-year plan idea she is quick to tell you that when she retires her plan is to have no plan…for just a month, though. She plans to go back and pick up those projects tossed aside many years ago and finally finish them, including a 20-year-old cross-stitch that is patiently waiting for her return. She’d also like to experiment with healthy cooking and perhaps find that time to play. Whatever the future may hold for one of Sinclair’s most prominent educators, one thing is certain, Gina Oliver will give it her all.

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