Faculty of Nursing begins a new tradition

Passing of the dean’s gown acknowledges legacy while establishing a link to the future.

30 April 2024

Sometime in the twelfth century, before modern conveniences like central heating were common, caps and gowns were worn at graduation ceremonies simply to keep students and faculty warm. By the fourteenth century, they had become a symbol of academic success, donned by graduates and faculty at university graduation ceremonies across the globe.  

The University of Alberta has continued this tradition, adding the university’s distinctive Oxford pattern in spruce green to the hood. Today, the Faculty of Nursing at the U of A has added a new tradition for academic regalia: the passing of the dean’s gown. 

The new tradition was introduced on April 3, 2024, when Dr. Anita Molzahn, dean of the Faculty of Nursing from July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2017, visited the faculty office at the Edmonton Clinic Health Academy. The purpose of her visit? To pass her doctoral gown and hood — which she wore for many ceremonies and special occasions during her tenure at the university — to interim dean Shannon Scott, who is set to assume the position of dean of the Faculty of Nursing on July 1, 2024.

Prior to National Nursing Week, Scott shares why this new tradition has begun and why it is important to the faculty.

What inspired this new tradition?

When it was announced that I had accepted the role of dean of the Faculty of Nursing, Dr. Molzahn reached out to congratulate me and asked if I had my own academic robe. When I said I was going to purchase one, she offered to give me hers, saying she would hand deliver it to me on an upcoming trip to the faculty. I was touched, as Dean Molzahn has made such a significant, positive impact on the faculty. I told her that I, too, would pass on her academic robe when I retire to the next dean who is a U of A alumni.   

What do you envision this tradition looking like in the future?

I envision the passing of the dean's academic robe becoming a new tradition in the faculty: one that symbolizes the values of leadership, mentorship and dedication within the nursing department. Of course, given that the aesthetics of the academic robe are tied to the institution, passing on the robe will require the future dean to be a U of A graduate. 

What would you like to tell faculty, students, staff and alumni about this new tradition?  

From offering the first nursing courses at the U of A in 1918, to being the first graduate program in nursing in Alberta in 1975, to being the first funded PhD in nursing program in Canada in 1991, the Faculty of Nursing has an incredibly rich history spanning more than a century. 

With a history marked by significant achievements such as ours, establishing and continuing tradition plays an important role in understanding the linkage between past and present.